Monday 31 March 2014

Denise Scott in Mother Bare, March 30, 2014 ****

Fairfax Studio, Melbourne Arts Centre, until April 20, 2014
Directed by Colin Batrouney 
Stars: ****
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 30
Review also published in Herald Sun online March 31, 2014. KH
Funny mummy’s tales of woeful births and dysfunctional parenting 

After seeing Mummy Bare, you’ll never again think of the miracle of birth without picturing Denise Scott doing her comical Caesarian Crouch Crawl up the maternity ward.

Scottie’s wry, unembellished delivery and relaxed demeanour make her wicked and self-deprecating material seem even more outrageous.

She is absolutely unembarrassable (Well, it’s a real word now!) so she can talk with alacrity about her dodgy, heart-shaped uterus, her bosom squashed into a too-tight evening gown, or her failed gig at Parramatta decades ago.

With just a crooked smile or a mischievous grin, she unashamedly admits to boozing and smoking while breast-feeding or secretly resenting her partner not pursuing his career as a doctor – correction – a rich doctor.

She mines her dysfunctional parenting style for jokes that allow her to embarrass her children, firstly as bright-eyed tiny tots, then disdainful teens and finally as successful adults.

Sunday 30 March 2014

Henson Alternative’s Puppet Up! – Uncensored, March 29, 2014 ****

By Jim Henson Company 
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Princess Theatre, until April 20, 2014 
Star rating:****
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also online in Herald Sun. KH

 Provocative puppet improvisation to make Kermit blush

Think of The Muppet Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway? colliding with an X Rated movie in an enormous accident of improvisational comic puppetry and you have Puppet Up! UnCensored.

These provocative, Henson puppets get away with murder – or, rather, with lurid language, sexual innuendo, graphic action and swearing to make Kermit blush.

The 60+ puppets include aliens, animals, humans, plants, sea creatures and a horde of hotdogs on sticks.

Six dexterous, hilarious puppeteers not only animate these creatures but also improvise stories, characters and songs.

We see onscreen puppet action while simultaneously watching the puppeteers below with hands held high, manipulating their creatures to create the onscreen illusion.

Bob Downe in Bob, Sweat and Tears, March 29, 2014 ****1/2

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Athenaeum Theatre, until April 20, 2014 (Tues, Fri, Sat & Sun only) 
Star rating:****1/2
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 29, 2014   
Full review also online in Herald Sun on March 30. KH

Quelle horreur! Polyester Bob Downe is coming out – straight!

Shock, horror! Bob Downe, of the polyester suit, platinum wig and plastic Ken doll campery, is coming out – straight!

He’s tightening up his limp wrist, ditching songs that smack of gayness (anything by Elton John and I Am What I Am from La Cage aux Folles), and replacing them with butch numbers such as Wanna Be In My Gang with Skinhead dancing.

He can’t sing Me And Alan Jones anymore, because he is now a committed, metrosexual bloke who goes to a men’s group run by Frankston politician, Geoff Shaw, retrieves repressed straight memories, and pervs at an over-sized poster of a girl’s bottom.

Fortunately, this new, ‘straight’ Bob is not averse to singing a medley or three and, accompanied by his super-tight, three-piece band (John Thorn, Sam Lesky, Holly Thomas), to match his three-piece, white safari suit, he delivers a hot, top 40 list of tunes.

Saturday 29 March 2014

Jason Byrne, March 28, 2014 ****

You Name The Show 
Atheneaum Theatre, until April 20, 2014
Star rating: ****
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Plenty of jokes about sex, wives and latecomers.  

Review also published  online in Herald Sun. KH

Jason Byrne’s astounding entrance, accompanied by Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball, has the crowd whooping and roaring before he even speaks a work.

That riotous moment is hard to beat – but he does it again, after spending 10 minutes berating the sheepish latecomers who include his favourite audience members, the Prahran bogan family and the student nerds.

It’s impossible not to like this Irish comedian with his wild-eyed demeanour, impassioned delivery, Irish accent and his inimitable ability to milk the audience’s comic potential.

His improvised work with the crowd provides the funniest material as he teases the caravan-builder and his tiny girlfriend, the teens who can’t survive an hour without their phones, and the video gamers who shout out “Head Shot” which has Byrne scanning for a sniper.

Paul McCarthy in Identity Crisis, March 28, 2014 ***

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Forum Theatre, Pizza Room, until April 20, 2014 
Star rating: ***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 28
Review also published online in Herald Sun on Sunday March 30, 2014. KH

Consummate impersonations but some material needs sharpening. 

Paul McCarthy is a consummate impersonator and character comedian who is better recognised as his subjects than as himself.

When total strangers call him “Kochy” in the street, is it any wonder he’s talking about an identity crisis?

In this solo show, Identity Crisis, McCarthy courageously steps away from the protection of his characters most of the time and back into his own skin to explore his youthful identity crisis and his eccentric mother’s role in it.

McCarthy’s mum’s outrageous behaviour provides comic fodder, ranging from her surprisingly liberal attitude to sex, self-justification, relentless denial and rampant Catholicism.

But the most compelling story is McCarthy’s shocking revelation of her adultery with – well – an unexpected man – and this story is so gob-smacking that it deserves more time.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

The Long Way Home, March 27-29, 2014 ****

By Daniel Keene
Presented by Sydney Theatre Company (STC) & Australian Defence Force (ADF)
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse until March 29, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 27
Stars: ****
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Fri March 28, 2014 and later in print. KH

In The Long Way Home, the true stories of injured Australian servicemen and women merge with Daniel Keene’s incisive writing to create a moving and gritty play.

Real stories told by real people have a resonance and truth that actors can only dream of, and seeing 12 service personnel performing their own and others’ painful stories is compelling, provocative, sometimes funny and often heart-rending.

Supported by 5 professional actors, the 12 service persons play a parade of characters based loosely on themselves and others, tell stories about the aftermath of war, the aching experience of recovering from injury and facing ongoing physical, emotional and psychological trauma.

Director Stephen Rayne, based this show on his UK production and, with Keene as writer, they ran a five week workshop with a group of participants, exploring ideas and experiences, and developing acting skills which led to Keene’s script and a period of rehearsal.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, March 25, 2014 ****

By Bryony Kimmings
Theatre Works, March 25 until April 6, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 25
Stars: **** 
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed March 26, 2014 and then in print. KH

 Bryony Kimmings & Taylor Houchen

If you are alarmed about your 9 year-old daughter’s choice of role models and the rampant sexualisation of children, do not despair – Catherine Bennett is here.

Just like the title of Bryony Kimmings’ show, Catherine is a Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, but she is a fictional character, created by Kimmings with her 9 year-old niece, Taylor Houchen.

UK performer, Kimmings devised this performance with Taylor in an attempt to determine what makes “tweenies” (7 to 12 year old girls) tick, what preoccupies and fascinates them and who their role models are.

The show flips between deliciously charming and fiercely confronting as we watch the pair dance with joy and abandon to Jessie J, enact fantasy stories, become knights-errant to fight invisible enemies and share secrets about each other with the audience.

Monday 24 March 2014

Dog Sees God, March 2014

Dog Sees God - Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

I did not see this show but here are some pics. KH

Friday 21 March 2014

Blood Brothers, March 22, 2014 ***

By Willy Russell, Manila Street Productions
Chapel off Chapel, March 20 until April 6, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 22, 2014
Stars: *** 
Review also published online in Herald Sun on Wed March 26, 2014 and later in print. KH

Chelsea Plumley

Blood Brothers, Willy Russell’s 1983 comic-tragic musical about twin boys separated at birth, is a scathing social commentary on the British class structure and nature versus nurture.

The musical elements are enormously successful in this production, not only because of Russell’s memorable tunes and gritty, witty lyrics, but also because of the accomplished three-piece band and assured musical direction of Andrew Patterson.

In the slums of Liverpool in 1958, Mrs. Johnstone (Chelsea Plumley) discovers that she is expecting twins after being abandoned with seven kids by her husband.

Her fatal error is to give one twin to her childless employer, Mrs. Lyons (Glenda Linscott), who is desperate for a baby, but superstition dictates that the boys must never know that they are brothers or they will die.

This combination of primitive superstitions and Mrs. Johnstone’s Faustian bargain with the devil sets in motion events that ultimately end in tragedy.

This Year's Ashes, March 21, 2014 ***

By Jane Bodie, Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Red Stitch Actors Theatre, March 21 until April 19, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 21
Stars: *** 
Review also published online in Herald Sun on Wed March 26, 2014 and later in print. KH

Jeremy Stanford   & Rosie Lockhart; Photo by Jodie Hutchinson

The early scenes of This Year’s Ashes, Jane Bodie’s play about a woman’s self-destructive response to grief, showcase both Bodie’s crackling dialogue and an impressive cast.

Despite Bodie’s witty writing and well-observed characters, the second half of the play, directed by Tim Roseman, is less successful because it becomes repetitive and has several false endings.

Ellen (Rosie Lockhart) is 30-something, lives in inner-Sydney surviving on vodka and frequent, anonymous, sexual encounters with men.

When her father (Jeremy Stanford) arrives unannounced after an unexplained, two-year absence, Rosie absents herself from her marketing job to watch The Ashes with her beloved dad – in the discomfort of her chaotic studio flat.

Lockhart balances vulnerability and toughness as Ellen, shifting from drunken harridan to demanding child as she negotiates the unpredictable terrain of her relationships with her father and the men she seduces in the over-sized bed that dominates the stage.

The entire cast delivers Bodie’s whip-sharp dialogue with commendable comic timing, but Daniel Frederiksen relishes playing Ellen’s assorted lovers and is hilariously goofy as warm-hearted, hopeful Tom who is determined to coax Ellen back into the world.

Neighbourhood Watch, March 20, 2014 ***

By Lally Katz
Melbourne Theatre Company presents Belvoir Street production 
MTC Southbank Theatre, Sumner, until April 26, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert  
Stars: ***
 Review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday, March 21, 2014 and later in print. KH
 Robyn Nevin (Ana), Megan Holloway (Catherine) Photo © Jeff Busby
In her compelling portrayal of Ana, a stroppy, Hungarian refugee, Robyn Nevin commands the stage and saves Lally Katz’s Neighbourhood Watch from slipping into banality.

The play, directed by Simon Stone, is a tale of an unlikely relationship between two women from different generations and vastly dissimilar life experiences.

Catherine (Megan Holloway), an aimless, young, unemployed actor, is befriended over the rubbish bins by her eccentric, old neighbour, Ana, and then becomes dependent on Ana’s bizarre wisdom and enamoured of her life stories.

Although there is dramatic potential in the women’s relationship, the play lacks cohesion because its two narrative threads – Ana’s past and Catherine’s 21st century dilemmas – are not effectively dovetailed.

The primary thread of the play, and its most successful scenes and dialogue, are built around Ana’s stories of love, war, refugee camps, and her life in Hungary, all of which Nevin tells in hilariously broken English interrupted by insults and unsolicited advice.

Ana is maddening, perverse, rude, generous, paranoid and old as dirt, and Nevin fully inhabits her, creating a complex, credible character that makes one want to slap her – or hug her.

Sunday 16 March 2014

The Long Pigs, March 13, 2014

March 13 to 23, 2014
I am not reviewing or seeing this show but I love this team so here is some info. KH

From Media release:
"The Long Pigs is a profound, stylistically and visually arresting performance rooted in physical and black comedy devised and performed by renowned and leading Australian theatre artists: Clare Bartholomew, Derek Ives and Nicci Wilks and directed by Susie Dee."