Wednesday 29 May 2013

On the Bodily Education of Young Girls, May 31, 2013 *1/2

Adaptation inspired by Frank Wedekind’s 1903 novella
Fraught Outfit, MTC NEON 
Lawler Studio, MTC, Southbank, May 30 to June 9, 2013 (opening night May 31)
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 31, 2013
Stars: *1/2

Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Tue June 4 and possibly later in print. KH 

During On the Bodily Education of Young Girls, nine teenage girls, in almost total silence, engage in a series of ballet warm-up exercises and then enact a schoolgirl pantomime depicting a plethora of stylised executions while their teachers watch.
Fantine Banulski pic by Pia Johnson

This may be the only occasion in which you will witness a group of 13-15 year-old girls not chatting, giggling or shrieking for a continuous hour.

Because it is devised by independent theatre company, Fraught Outfit, and is part of the MTC NEON Festival, this production cannot be assessed as youth theatre – despite many of its cast being teens – so it must meet certain professional standards.

Director, Adena Jacobs describes her production, which is inspired by Frank Wedekind’s 1903 novella, On The Bodily Education of Young Girls, as “a theatrical poem through a contemporary lens” and “an elegy for childhood”, amongst other descriptions.

Wedekind’s novel portrays an 84 year-old woman’s recollections of her years in an insular, girls’ school being trained in ballet and biology and performing at night for adults.

While Jacobs’ adaptation chooses not to interpret Wedekind’s story directly, it fails to illuminate anything about adolescent girls, their burgeoning physicality and awareness, or the juxtaposition of adult and child.

Unfortunately, it is an incoherent, incohesive and contrived collection of workshop ideas that are not sufficiently developed to make clear its theatrical intentions or make a meaningful performance.

The stage does not succeed in being dangerous, threatening, sensual, decorative, risky, artistic or magical.

The first 20-30 minutes features an interminable ballet warm-up session, myriad meaningless exits and entrances, mannered and meaningful gazes between the girls, and tepid, uninflected observation by two schoolmistresses (Luisa Hastings Edge, Karen Sibbing) and an elderly woman (Anna Schlusser).

The young actors work diligently, but the direction makes them look awkward and self-conscious, and their movements and pathways around the stage are so contrived and overly choreographed that they are stilted.

The violence portrayed in their pantomime is like a bad primary school play, with mediaeval characters slaughtering each other with plastic swords and it provides no sense of teenagers attempting to depict adult themes.

The only moments of energy and girlishness occur when they play a tag game and shriek like playful teenagers.

Those who work with teenage girls in devising performance will know that they love anything obtuse, esoteric and cryptic, probably because it feels philosophical and adult, even when they don’t have a clue what it all means.

This is not stylisation; it is just kids doing bad acting – very, very slowly, and it’s not their fault.

By Kate Herbert

Director Adena Jacobs
Dramaturgy Aaron Orzech
Set Design Dayna Morrissey

Composer Kelly Ryall; Lighting
Design Danny Pettingill

Costume Design Chloe Greaves
Associate Artist Pia Johnson


Mika Andrew, Fantine Banulski, Bianca Coppa, Tove Due, Luisa Hastings Edge, Cindy Hu, Annie McKenna-Freeman, Lois Scott, Karen Sibbing, Carla Tilley, Artemis Wilson

Button, May 30, 2013 ***

Button by Carole Patullo & Jane Bayly
La Mama Courthouse, May 29 to June 16, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Button is cute as a button.

This review is not published in Herald Sun. KH
Button, devised and performed by Carole Patullo and Jane Bayly, is an engaging and lyrical piece with a peculiar way of being both charming and portentous, simultaneously attracting and repelling an audience with its oddball characters and their surprising behaviours.
 Carole Patullo and Jane Bayly

Directed simply and stylishly by Melanie Beddie, Button’s disparate elements are woven together by a thread of narrative about the burgeoning friendship between two single, middle-aged women who live in adjoining homes and meet over a jar of buttons.

Button’s distinctive non-naturalistic, verbal, visual and physical style combines poetic language that captures the minutiae of the characters’ individual observations about their surroundings, with a deliberately heightened delivery style, an abstracted narrative and stylised movement.

The two women are totally different personalities and their stories and mannerisms are both funny and poignant.

Patullo plays an eccentric, isolated, obsessive and – let’s be honest ­ – hilariously weird woman who collects buttons, and whose moods swing from relentless cheerfulness to sudden, unnerving but fleeting outbursts of rage.

Bayly’s character, although more connected to the real world, suffers loneliness, anxiety and isolation since the departure or death of her partner, and both muse on the idiosyncrasies of life and the disappointments of ageing and becoming invisible.

Peter Farnan’s live music subtly underscores the relationship, providing another layer to the emotional landscape of these two dysfunctional creatures, and the pulsating, metronome-like tone beats out the swiftly passing time of their lives.

Scattered amongst the dialogue are quirky little songs that gently probe the human condition, with the pair pondering such notions as, “If no one cares, I’m not here”, “The things I haven’t done yet”, and “I’m not dead yet”.

Button really is cute as a button.

By Kate Herbert

Button is part of 2013 VCE Drama Playlist

"It’s just a little disc. A useful, beautiful thing... it holds us together. Two women live alone but side by side. One day they meet over a jar of buttons and an awkward friendship begins... An intimate show with a wonderful balance of light and dark, humour and contemplation, plus fantastic live music and songs." 
Media Release - Button
Devised and performed by Carole Patullo and Jane Bayly
Dramaturgy and direction by Melanie Beddie
Live music and sound design by Peter Farnan
Lighting design by Katie Sfetkidis
Choreography by Luke George
Design by Melanie Liertz
Chairs: Daniele Poidomani
Magic Consultant: Alex de la Rambelje
Photograph by Deryk McAlpin - Proof
Image Design by Robin Griffiths - Dazzle Creative

Monday 27 May 2013

Jesus Christ Superstar preview

Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Tour PREVIEW
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, June 14, 15, 16 (also touring Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane)

Stand by for opening night review on June 14. KH
Ben Forster as Jesus Christ
Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot
Melanie C as Mary Magdalen
Andrew O’Keefe as King Herod
Jon Stevens as Pontius Pilate

Director - Laurence Connor

King Kong Preview pics

King Kong Preview Photos
from Media Call on Monday May 27, 2013
Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Photos by Joe Calleri 
See more pics here:

Opening Night review coming on June 15, 2013. KH
Photo by Joe Calleri

Photo by Joe Calleri
 Photo by Joe Calleri
Photo by Joe Calleri

Thursday 23 May 2013

Phèdre, Bell Shakes, May 23, 2013 ***

Written by Jean Racine, translated by Ted Hughes
Bell Shakespeare production 
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, May 22 until June 2, 2013 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 23 
Stars: ***
 The review will not be published in, and was not written for Herald Sun. KH
Racine’s 17th century French tragedy may be based in Ancient Greek mythology, but Bell Shakespeare’s version of Phèdre shares its themes with soap operas: incest, infidelity, chastity and a woman’s lust for a younger man.

Catherine McClements is brittle and traumatised as Phèdre, the distraught wife of King Theseus (Marco Chiappi), who is driven to distraction by her long-standing, secret passion for her stepson, Hippolytus (Edmund Lembke-Hogan).

When her husband is proclaimed dead after a six-month absence, Phèdre confesses to her nurse, Oenone (Julie Forsyth) that her unnamed sickness is lust for Hippolytus, the stepson she abused and exiled for years.

With Oenone’s encouragement, Phèdre rashly and fervently declares her lusty obsession to the horrified and chaste Hippolytus – just before Theseus returns, alive and well. As in any Greek tragedy, it all goes horribly wrong from there.

Ted Hughes’ 20th century translation loses the lyricism and rhyme of Racine’s original, but makes the meaning more concrete and modern.

Director, Peter Evans, confines the actors in a claustrophobic, ruined, ancient portico (Designed by Anna Conrdingley, lighting by Paul Jackson), with a roof that is open to the elements and the ire of the Gods.

Evans’ production begins with a painfully static and problematic opening act in which the actors barely move and never address each other directly, using an understated vocal style that works against the dramatic.

Fortunately, the following acts contain more emotional and physical action and McClements, Forsyth and Chiappi all deliver impassioned speeches that erupt with blistering or poignant emotion.

flowerchildren, May 22, 2013 ***1/2

flowerchildren: The Mamas and Papas Story
By Peter Fitzpatrick, featuring songs of The Mamas and the Papas
Presented by Magnormos
Comedy Theatre, May 22 until June 23, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 22
Stars: *** 1/2
This review published in Herald Sun online on May 27, 2013. KH

The impressive and unforgettable hit songs by 1960s group, The Mamas and the Papas, combined with the chaotic but passionate personal lives of its members, makes Peter Fitzpatrick’s musical, flowerchildren, both entertaining and moving.

A versatile cast (Matt Hetherington, Laura Fitzpatrick, Dan Humphris, Casey Donovan) effortlessly sing the complex harmonies, difficult melodies and distinctive lyrics, capturing the idiosyncratic sound of the Californian, Flower Power quartet.

Their four-part harmonies make such classics as California Dreamin’, Creeque Alley, Monday Monday, and I Saw Her Again Last Night, absolutely thrilling to hear.

Hetherington, with his affecting vocal tone, is compelling and impassioned as the formidably talented but drug-addled and arrogant songwriter, John Phillips, the man responsible for most of the band’s memorable tunes.

Laura Fitzpatrick finds sensitivity, playfulness and sincerity in Michelle, Phillips’ unfaithful wife, and her rendition of Dedicated To The One I Love is sweetly emotional.

Former winner of Australian Idol, Casey Donovan’s powerful, exhilarating voice captures the unique vocal quality of Mama Cass, bringing joy and pain to her signature solo hit, Dream A Little Dream Of Me.

Papa Denny was perhaps the unsung member of the band, but Humphris, with his bright tenor, sensitively plays this lovelorn, booze-raddled, young man.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

One Man, Two Guvnors, May 21, 2013 ****

By Richard Bean
Based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
Songs by Grant Olding
A National Theatre of Great Britain production, Co-presented with Arts Centre Melbourne and MTC
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, May 21 until June 29, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review published in Herald Sun online on May 24, 2013. KH

If you love a good clown show, Richard Bean’s play, One Man, Two Guvnors, will tickle your fancy with the zany, physical comedy antics of Owain Arthur wrangling a recalcitrant travelling trunk and serving a chaotic dinner to two masters.
Owain Arthur
Just like Arlecchino (Harlequin) in Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century Italian comedy, The Servant of Two Masters, Francis (Owain Arthur) is a lusty, desperate servant who tries to keep his belly and his pockets stuffed by serving two masters simultaneously.

It all goes pear-shaped, of course.

Francis (Owain Arthur), sacked from his skiffle band, signs on as a minder/assistant for two bosses – Roscoe Crabbe (Rosie Wyatt), a cockney gangster, and Stanley Stubbers  (Edward Bennett) an idiot toff.

Roscoe is really Rachel disguised as her dead twin brother who was killed by Stubbers, Rachel’s idiot, boarding-school-toff boyfriend.

This modern farce, like its Italian parent written at the end of the heyday of the Commedia dell’Arte, is riddled with ridiculous disguises, mistaken identities, blunders, near-misses, unrequited love, broad physical comedy, asides to the audience, plenty of laughs and improvisation.

The production, directed with wit and pizzazz by Nicholas Hytner, updates Goldoni’s characters and slapstick to 1960s Brighton, England, and the performance style straddles vaudeville, Carry-On movies and old-fashioned, Butlins holiday camp entertainment.

Most of the comedy arises from Francis juggling his two jobs, and scrambling to keep his bosses apart.

Bean’s snappy, stand-up style, verbal comedy and innuendo blends perfectly with knockdown, sight gags and clown routines directed skilfully by Cal McCrystal.

Thursday 16 May 2013

No Child... May 7-19, 2013 *****+

By Nilaja Sun
Theatre Works, May 7 to 19, 2013 (see on Oct 9, 2012, & May 15, 2013)
Stars: 5 +

I saw Nilaja's show again today and, once again, makes me laugh and cry and admite every cell of her creative self. When I left the theatre last yer and again today, i could have watched it all over again immediately - twice!
 See below for my 2012 review which ran only on this blog, not in Herald Sun. KH
Presented by Theatre Works, Melbourne Festival & Brisbane Festival
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Oct 9 to 14, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 9, 2012
Stars:*****  (I'd give it more if I could)
THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE LEAPT TO ITS FEET AS ONE at the end of No Child... by Nilaja Sun. This is one of those rare, theatrical jewels that is so perfectly wrought in every way that it is impossible to fault.

Sun may be alone on stage, but she transforms herself, and transports us into another world, populating the empty space with a parade of eccentric, vividly painted characters, all students and staff at a dysfunctional, uptown New York High School.

This masterly, award-winning performance, directed by Hal Brooks, is a testament to Sun’s theatrical skills as both a writer and a performer, and it balances hilarious, observational character comedy with poignant commentary on the failure of the US public education system to cater for these needy teenagers from Brooklyn.
Miss Sun (a version of the actor herself) is a teaching artist who ambitiously enters Malcolm X High to work with challenging Year 10s to stage a theatrical production of Our Country’s Good, an Australian play about convicts and freedom that is strangely relevant to the kids.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Menagerie, May 17, 2013 **1/2

Daniel Schlusser Ensemble, supported by NEON, MTC
The Lawler Studio, MTC, until May 26, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 26
This review published in Herald Sun online on May 24, 2013. KH

 Edwina Wren in Menagerie. Photo by Sarah Walker
The inspiration for Menagerie is American playwright, Tennessee Williams, and, although it has moments of insight and clarity, many funny, absurd or playful moments and some poignant and dangerous reflections, Menagerie falls short of illuminating Williams’ chequered life and extraordinary writing.

Directed by Daniel Schlusser, Menagerie is not a deconstructed version of a Williams’ play, although it includes echoes of the family from The Glass Menagerie and scraps of dialogue and themes from his major plays.

In a shabby, paint-peeling, weatherboard shack (Dale Ferguson), a trailer-trash family bickers and scratches out a desperate existence surrounded by the detritus of poverty and disillusionment: car tyres, wheely bins, empty bourbon bottles and a battered paddling pool.

There are several layers of reality in the piece; the actors play characters that reflect Williams and his real family, then portray Tom, his sister and mother from The Glass Menagerie, and later in the piece, play themselves, using their own names.

Nixon In China, Victorian Opera, May 16, 2013 ***1/2

Music by John Adams, libretto by Alice Goodman; by Victorian Opera 
Her Majesty’s Theatre, May 16, 18, 21 & 23, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 16 
Stars: ***1/2
Review published in print in Herald Sun on May 21 and online on May 22. KH.

"February 21, 1972, the week that changed the world."

For many listeners, the contemporary music of John Adams may sound as alien and difficult as that of the exotic Peking Opera, so it makes a strange sort of sense that his opera, Nixon In China, uses his minimalist music.

On February 21, 1972, US President, Richard Nixon, arrived in Peking to meet with Chairman Mao and his Premier, Chou En-Lai, during “the week that changed the world”, just a year before his presidential demise after Watergate.

Orchestra Victoria, under the impeccable leadership of conductor, Fabian Russell, brings life to Adams’ edgy, complex score that incorporates a smattering of other styles into its mostly minimalist structure.

Adams’ repetitive music has a tidal ebb and flow that surges at times with emotional, dramatic crescendos, echoes of ceremonial celebrations, militaristic revolutionary bands and plenty of brass.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Links to reviews of Love Is My Sin, May 9, 2013

 See reviews of Love Is My Sin at these links:

Link to Jim Schembri review Herald Sun online Tues May 14, 2013:

Joe Calleri blog, May 10, 2013:

Aussie Theatre - Joanne Bowen, May 9, 2013 

Tickets are available at the door, even if the online booking page says "Closed". KH