Friday 30 May 2014

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, May 29, 2014 ****

Written by Martin McDonagh
Part 1 of The Leenane Trilogy, by Kin Collective
At fortyfivedownstairs, until June 1, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Part Two: A Skull In Connemara: June 4-7
Part Three: The Lonesome West:  Wed June 11-14
The Leenane Trilogy (all 3 plays) on Sundays June 1, 8 & 15 at 1pm-7pm

Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday May 30. Probably later in print. KH
L-R: Dylan Watson, Linc Hasler, Michala Banas, Noni Hazlehurst

Martin McDonagh’s grim comic-tragedy, The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, seethes with the suppressed rage between a controlling mother and her hapless, middle-aged daughter. 

In their isolated, dilapidated cottage in Connemara on the windswept, west coast of Ireland, Mag (Noni Hazlehurst) and Maureen (Michala Banas) live out their miserable, repetitive daily life of sniping, cruelty and mutual loathing.

Hazlehurst totally inhabits the manipulative, whining and contrary old harridan, Mag, delivering a superbly nuanced performance that makes us laugh and wince at Mag’s sneering secretiveness and shameless cruelty.

She is compelling as she slumps resentfully in her scruffy chair, sniffing and snooping into Maureen’s business or stumping painfully around her drab and forlorn kitchen domain (design by Casey-Scott Corless).

Banas is assured and convincing as Mag’s peculiar, virginal, spinster daughter, Maureen, gaining our sympathy when her mother mistreats her, our delight when Pato (Linc Hasler) dubs her the Beauty Queen of Leenane, and our disapproval at her brutal taunting of Mag.

Thursday 29 May 2014

NEON Festival, MTC, 29 May-3 Aug, 2014

MTC, May 29 to 3 Aug, 2014

PROGRAM Little Ones Theatre - Dangerous Liaisons 
angus cerini / doubletap - Resplendence
Antechamber Productions & Daniel Keene presents Photographs of A
Arthur - The Myth
Project: Twin

Sans Hotel - Green Screen

 Friday nights - NEON UP LATE, informal readings: Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise by Morgan Rose, Triumph by Louris van de Geer and Alraune by Meredith Penman

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Ghosts, MTC May 21, 2014 ***

By Henrik Ibsen, Melbourne Theatre Company
Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, until 21 June, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 3
This review is not for the Herald Sun. KH
  Ben Pfeiffer, Linda Cropper, Philip Quast
Henrik Ibsen’s late 19th century play, Ghosts, is imbued with a ghastly sense of claustrophobia and dread that is missing in this production by internationally acclaimed director, Gale Edwards.

The ghosts of the dead haunt Ibsen’s characters as do the oppressive ideas, restrictive morality and social obligations of a rigid Norwegian society.

On a dank, wet day, Pastor Manders (Philip Quast) visits Mrs. Helene Alving (Linda Cropper) to discuss the forthcoming opening of an orphanage that will be a memorial to her dead husband.

Shabby secrets are revealed about the past debauchery of Mrs. Alving’s philandering husband and about the creeping illness of her prodigal son, Oswald (Ben Pfeiffer), who has returned from Paris after abandoning his career as an artist.

The play was wildly controversial in moralistic, inflexible Norway in 1893 because of its allusions to adultery, venereal disease, incest and births out of wedlock.

This version is savagely edited to about 90 minutes, which compresses the action to such a degree that it loses any sense of the arduous, aching drama and strips out much of the character and relationship development.

The actors work very hard to maintain the ominous atmosphere but the heightened style of acting slips into soap opera at times with dialogue sounding rushed.

Shadowland, May 28, 2014

Pilobolus, May 28 2014
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne

I am not seeing this show now. Had to cancel. Sorry. Looks great.  Take note that all images are created by dancers' bodies.
See Joe's pics below. KH
 All photos by Joe Calleri at Media Call, May 28
From the Media Release:
"For the first time in Australia, with more than 100 choreographic works performed in over 64 countries, comes Shadowland -  a fusion of shadow theatre, illusions and dance using dynamic screens where exotic creatures appear and beautiful images are magically conjured out of thin air by acclaimed dance troupe Pilobolus.

"The first show of its kind to combine shadow theatre with dance, Shadowland is an enchanting tale of a teenage girl who yearns for independence. From her dreams she wakes to something behind her bedroom wall - her shadow."

Thursday 22 May 2014

Les Miserables, Media Call, May 22, 2014

 Les Miserables Media Call at Rehearsal Studio
Thursday May 22, 20
 Photo by Joe Calleri

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Ugly Mugs, May 20, 2014 ***

By Peta Brady, by Malthouse Theatre; 
Co-production with Griffin Theatre; Malthouse Theatre Commission (Malcolm Robertson Foundation)  
Beckett Theatre, until 7 June, 2014  
Reviewer: Kate Herbert  
Stars: ***

Review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed May 21 and later in print. KH
Peta Brady and Steve Le Marquand; Photo: Pia Johnson

Both the perpetrators and the victims remain nameless and strangely anonymous in Ugly Mugs, Peta Brady’s unsentimental, sometimes grimly comical play about violence against sex workers.

Brady draws on her experience working amongst sex workers to build the gritty realism, vivid central character, hard-boiled dialogue and bluntly brutal descriptions in the play.

A 37 year-old prostitute (Brady) lies on a morgue gurney chatting idly, even cheerfully, to a forensic pathologist (Steve Le Marquand) who is, in fact, investigating her death and performing her autopsy. (Not a spoiler as we know this in the first minutes.)

In a second narrative thread, a teenage boy (Harry Borland) and girl (Sara West) meet in a park where they tussle and taunt each other in an awkward, possibly dangerous game of cat and mouse.

The play, directed unobtrusively by Marion Potts, is somehow more unsettling because of the sheer ordinariness of the characters and because the violence is described in a matter-of-fact way, rather than being enacted.

It is chilling to hear the details of the woman’s autopsy as she enquires unemotionally about the procedure and explains her recollections of the attack and her attacker.

Sunday 18 May 2014

La traviata, Victorian Opera, May 17, 2014 ***1/2

Music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
By Victorian Opera in association with Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini
Her Majesty’s Theatre, May 17 to 29, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Tues, May 20 and later in print. NB: VO uses lower case for 'traviata'. KH
 Jessica Pratt as Violetta Valèry, Alessandro Scotto di Luzio as Alfredo Germont

 The lavish world of decadent, 19th century salons in Paris is vividly depicted in this sumptuous, Victorian Opera production of Giuseppe Verdi’s poignant tragedy, La traviata. 

Led by silvery-voiced Jessica Pratt as the lusty but ailing courtesan, Violetta, an international cast sings the opera beautifully, but it is the visual impact of the striking, mirrored design (originally by Josef Svoboda) that dubs this production ‘The traviata of the mirrors’.

La traviata (‘the fallen woman’) is set in the Parisian ‘demi-monde’, a term that refers to the hedonism of a lavishly excessive lifestyle of pleasure-seeking, wine, gambling and lust lived by those who defied the propriety of the ruling class.

Based on Alexander Dumas’ book, The Lady of the Camelias, La traviata is one of the most-performed operas and is filled with Verdi’s exquisite arias – recognisable even to opera novices – inspiring harmonies, dramatic duets and stirring choruses.

In the role of the tragic, young prostitute who chooses to leave her opulent life for love, Pratt’s soprano is superbly controlled with a lovely tone, particularly when singing ‘piano’ (quietly).

She skillfully meets the vocal challenges of Verdi’s arias: the demanding coloratura (very high notes) in Act One, the lyric soprano duet in Act Two, and the dramatic soprano style as Violetta faces death in Act Three.

As her doting lover, Alfredo, Alessandro Scotto di Luzio sings expressively and emotionally, capturing both the desperation and joy of this young man’s obsession with Violetta.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Let’s Get It On: The Life & Music of Marvin Gaye, May 15, 2014 ****

Written by John H. Livings; produced by Room 8
Atheneaum Theatre, May 15 to 25, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review published in Herald Sun online on May 20 and in print. KH

Let’s face it, Bert LaBonté is such a gifted performer I’d happily watch him doing nursery rhymes, so when he’s singing Marvin Gaye’s repertoire I’d crawl over broken glass for tickets – and pay for them!
(Yes, I know it is exaggeration! Maybe run over hot coals?)

In this two-hour “narrative concert”, Let’s Get It On: The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye, LaBonté commands and enthralls the audience with his thrilling voice, generous performance and easy charm.

Supported by the tight, accomplished ensemble, The Funk City Band (led by John McAll), and singer Jude Perl, LaBonté deliver a bravura performance of a parade of Gaye’s hits.

LaBonté channels Marvin’s silky, soulful vocal tones, complex Rhythm and Blues stylings and funky movement in riveting solos that showcase his velvety voice and exhilarating upper register.

The song list includes the emotional What’s Going On, the sensual Lets Get it On, and a sassy, erotic rendition of Sexual Healing.

LaBonté sings Ain’t No Mountain High Enough in a dynamic duet with Perl, sends tingles down the spine with his poignant Wherever I Lay My Hat, and has the audience rocking in their seats during the intoxicating I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

Friday 9 May 2014

WICKED, Melbourne, May 10, 2014 ****1/2

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; Book by Winnie Holzman; based on Gregory Maguire’s novel
Produced by Marc Platt, David Stone & John Frost, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt,
Regent Theatre, Melbourne, until September
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun in print on Sun May 11 in News pages and on line on Mon May 12 on Arts web page. KH
All photos by Joe Calleri
All photos by Joe Calleri 

The magical, hit musical, Wicked, is a collision of Legally Blonde and Harry Potter – with more music, less menace and a foolish, old Wizard instead of a threatening Dark Lord.

Wicked celebrates its 10th anniversary by greening the streets of Melbourne and transforming the Regent Theatre into the Emerald City and The Land of Oz.

Lisa Leguillou’s return production glitters with stellar performances by the effervescent Lucy Durack as Galinda/Glinda, and Jemma Rix as Elphaba.

Wicked traces the secret girlhood friendship between the two witches from The Wizard of Oz: Elphaba, the outcast, green-tinged child, becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, while her pretty, popular rival, Galinda, grows up to be Glinda the Good.

This unlikely relationship that evolves from loathing to intimacy, provides a firm, compelling and emotional core to the story, making it almost identification theatre for young teenage girls.

Winnie Holzman’s book strips away the complexities of Gregory Maguire’s original, fantasy novel, but the narrative remains convoluted and its numerous threads are not all satisfactorily resolved.

Contemporary themes permeate the story: bigotry, misdirected fear, bullying, political manipulation and the persecution of those who are different.

Durack once again proves herself a consummate musical theatre professional and, with her silvery, bright voice, is perfectly cast as the adorable, gleefully conceited and relentlessly cheerful Galinda, the capricious, flirtatious teen witch.

During her outstanding interpretation of the comical song, Popular, she capers goofily while enthusiastically attempting a makeover on her green pal, “Elphy”.

Friday 2 May 2014

SEETHrough, May 2, 2014 **

SEETHrough by Sean Jorvn
Illbijerri Theatre & Malthouse Helium season & Next Wave Festival
Tower Theatre, Malthouse, May 2 to 11, 2014  
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **

Review also published in Herald Sun online on Monday 5 May. KH
 Gavin Walters & Colin Kinchela 

The core idea of an intimate friendship between a young, indigenous man and his Anglo-Australian friend has dramatic potential, but unfortunately SEETHrough does not illuminate this issue effectively.

The pair, it seems, grew up together, but now the Anglo man (Gavin Walters) wants to leave their mutual homeland to go to the city so his indigenous friend (Colin Kinchela) feels betrayed, angry and fearful.

Kinchela and Walters’ intentions are commendable – to create work about their respective Gomeroi and Anglo-Australian cultures ­– but their acting is limited, unconvincing and lacking technique, while their dialogue is emotionally disconnected from the text.

The rather portentous style of delivery is annoyingly pretentious and makes the dialogue cryptic.

The Turk In Italy, Opera Australia, May 1, 2014 ****

By Gioachino Rossino, libretto by Felice Romani, after libretto by Caterino Mazzolà
Opera Australia
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **** 
Review also published in Herald Sun online on May 2, 2014 and later in print. KH

If opera makes you nervous, Simon Phillips’ playfully engaging production of Gioachino Rossini’s The Turk In Italy, is the ideal introduction to 19th century comic opera.

Phillips’ interpretation makes Rossini’s buoyant music accessible to modern audiences by providing hilariously mischievous surtitle translations for Felice Romani’s libretto, adding broad, physical comedy to the stage action, and setting the opera in a 1950s Italian seaside town.

The deliciously high-gelati colours of the design (Gabriela Tylesova) are almost lickable, with the setting and costumes echoing those of 1950s beachside movies.

Orchestra Victoria skilfully plays Rossini’s music under conductor Anthony Legge, and the lead singers and chorus bring to life Rossini’s beautiful harmonies.

First performed at La Scala, Milan, in 1814 when the precocious Rossini was only 21 – two years after his much-performed The Barber of Seville – The Turk in Italy has many of the hallmarks of Rossini’s comic operatic style.

Comic traditions abound in this story about Fiorilla (Emma Matthews), the flighty, unfaithful, young wife of old Geronio (Andrew Moran), and her romantic – or in this production, overtly sexual – dalliances with firstly Narciso (John Longmuir) and then Selim (Shane Lowrencev), the visiting Turkish prince.