Sunday 29 June 2014

The Good Person of Szechuan, July 2, 2014 **

By Bertolt Brecht, translated by Tom Wright, by Malthouse Theatre
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, July 2-20, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **

Full review also published online on July 14 and in print in Herald Sun. KH

German playwright, Bertolt Brecht, wanted audiences to leave his plays feeling ready to change the world, but I left The Good Person of Szechuan wanting to bark at traffic.

That may sound like an odd and confusing response but wait until you see Chinese director, Meng Jinghui’s rather addled production of Brecht’s play.

Great expectations preceded Jinghui’s arrival as he is regarded as an innovative director in China. But, despite the talented cast desperately trying to make it work, the disparate components fail to make a coherent whole and it is ultimately chaotic, shambolic, outmoded and unsatisfying.

Brecht wrote political parables that challenged the audience to think about corruption, greed and the absolute power of tyranny, and Good Person is one such play.

When three gods (Genevieve Morris, Genevieve Giuffre, Emily Milledge) come to earth to judge the morality of humanity, they enlist the help of the water carrier, Wang (Richard Pyros), to find one good person, a nigh impossible task in the mean-spirited town of Szechuan.

Wang finds only one such person, Shen Te (Moira Finucane), a prostitute with a generous spirit. However, when the gods reward her with money to start a tobacco shop, Shen Te discovers that wealth attracts cheats, spongers and thieves.

Henry V, Bell Shakespeare, July 2, 2014

By William Shakespeare, by Bell Shakespeare
Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne, July 2-12, 2014

I am not reviewing this for Herald Sun but have made a few belated notes on the production. KH
 Henry V in rehearsal
This production is an interesting take on Henry V. A group of schoolkids rehearse the play in a London bomb shelter during World War Two.

The conceit works for the first 40 minutes but then it palls when the childish playfulness and light voices of the young men diminishes the gravity of Henry's assault on France.

The novelty of the interpretation wears off and we crave some truth and depth in the depiction of such a brutal and senseless war. KH

From Bell Media Release:
Damien Ryan will direct his first mainstage production for Bell Shakespeare. (Henry V is) A tale about a king who unites a nation with his eloquent words and ideas, his triumphs and humanity...

Ryan’s contemporary take is inspired by a true story; for 71 consecutive nights during
the Blitz in 1941, a group of boys stuck in a bunker started a ‘Boy’s Club’, where they
would rehearse a new play each week, including Shakespeare’s works and then perform
it for the other people in the shelter.

Saturday 28 June 2014

Les Misérables, opens July 3, 2014, Melbourne

Music & Book by Claude-Michel Shönberg
Dramatisation & French Lyrics by Alain Boublil & Jean-Marc Natel
English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer
Adapted by Trevor Nunn & John Caird; Adapted from novel by Victor Hugo
A Cameron Mackintosh production, Michael Cassel Australian Producer
Her Majesty’s Theatre, from July 4, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:  TBC
I will review this after I see the opening on Thursday, July 3, 2014 in Melbourne. KH
Photos below are not from Melbourne production 

Les Misérables is set in early 19th century France (post-French Revolution) in the years before and during the Paris Uprising and revolutionary upheaval. Jean Valjean (Simon Gleeson), is French peasant who seeks redemption after serving nineteen years imprisonment for the theft of a loaf of bread. He jumps parole and is pursued relentlessly by Javert (Hayden Tee), a police officer.
Simon Gleeson Jean Valjean
Hayden Tee Javert
Fantine Patrice Tipoki
Madame Thénardier Lara Mulcahy
Thénardier  Trevor Ashley
Éponine Kerrie Anne Greenland
Cosette Emily Langridge
Enjolras  Chris Durling
Marius  Euan Doidge

Laurence Connor - Director   
Geoffrey Castles -Conductor/Music Director
Matt Kinley Set and image designer
Adrianne Neofitou Costume designer (additional costumes Christine Rowland)
Paule Constable lighting designer
Mick Potter - Sound design
Michael Ashcroft  & Geoffrey Garrett - Musical Staging
John Cameron original orchestrations (Christopher Janke Stephen Metcalfe new orchestrations)


Thursday 26 June 2014

Photographs of A, June 26, 2014

Written by Daniel Keene, by Antechamber Productions
At  MTC Lawler Studio, Southbank
June 26 to July 6, 2014

 I couldn't get to this on opening night, but I will gladly recommend anything written by Daniel Keene directed by Brian Lipson and starring Helen Morse.

"A poetic production about the 19th century medical muse and extraordinarily influential figure in modern psychology, Louise Augustine Gleizes." from Media Release

Sunday 22 June 2014

Melissa Langton, Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2014

A Singer Must Die by Melissa Langton
Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2014
I reviewed this show last year and it is great. See previous full review from Sept 25, 2013 below.
The original blog entry is here: 

A Singer Must Die...And Other Bedtime Stories, by Melissa Langton & Mark Jones

Chapel off Chapel, Sept 24 until Sept 29, 2013

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: 4

In her intelligently structured and irreverent solo show, A Singer Must Die... and other bedtime stories, Melissa Langton explores songs from the dark side – tempered with plenty of black comedy.

Langton is an audacious, impressive music theatre/cabaret performer and this production, directed by her equally accomplished partner, Mark Jones, showcases her prodigious talent.

She opens with Leonard Cohen’s A Singer Must Die, a bleak but witty tune that features a disenchanted singer who laments, “I’m sorry for smudging the air with my song.”

The Beautiful Losers, Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2014

Despite Popular Demand

Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2014

Chapel off Chapel, June 20 & 21, 2014 only
I missed this show but keep an ear out for this terrific cabaret team at a later date. KH
Fom their Media Release:
"The Beautiful Losers are back with their heart-warming celebration of humanity at its most depraved.  A toe-tapping horror show of serial killers, underachievers, dog handlers, emotional cripples and pre-school carers."

Matthew Mitcham in Twists and Turns, June 20, 2014 ***

By Matthew Mitcham, Nigel Turner-Carroll & script by Spanky
Melbourne Cabaret Festival
Chapel off Chapel, June 20, 21 & 22, 2014 only
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***

Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Mon 23 June, 2014 and later in print. KH
Matthew Mitcham

Olympic gold medallist, Matthew Mitcham’s autobiographical cabaret show relies primarily on Mitcham’s celebrity and his intimate confessions, rather than on his musical ability.

Twists and Turns is a peculiar hybrid of styles and content that incorporates quirky, old-fashioned tunes with pop songs, combines ukulele with piano, and accompanies Mitcham’s personal revelations with a very weird alter ego wearing drag (cabaret icon, Spanky).

Directed by Nigel Turner-Carroll with a script by Spanky, the show is based on Mitcham’s tell-all autobiography that maps the trajectory of his diving career, his coming out as a gay athlete, and the crippling self-doubt, depression and drug abuse that plagued him.

Although, initially his performance looks awkward, Mitcham’s ebullient personality charms the audience that clearly identifies with his stories.

The structure of the show is linear and unimaginative, with dialogue that is often over-written and, particularly in the early scenes, littered with tacky, sexual innuendo and adolescent gags about toilet paper.

Amanda Harrison, June 20, 2014 ****

Up Close and Reasonably Personal, written by James Millar
Melbourne Cabaret Festival
Chapel off Chapel, Prahran, June 20 & 21, 2014 only
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:  ****
Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Mon 23 June, 2014 and later in print. KH
Amanda Harrison

The timbre and tone of Amanda Harrison’s voice is thrilling and spending a night Up Close and Reasonably Personal with her is to be treasured.

Has anyone else, like me, been holding her breath waiting for Harrison to reappear on a Melbourne stage?

With her flashing dark eyes, sassy presence and remarkable, soaring top register, Harrison is the ultimate musical theatre diva that Australia adored as Elphaba, the green witch in Wicked.

In this playfully confessional cabaret, she shares the cruel truth that a music theatre star’s life is far from glamorous and that she is pitied by loved ones for her poverty and frequent joblessness.

Witty, revelatory banter, written by James Millar, links Harrison’s repertoire of songs that ranges from cheerful to challenging, all accompanied by her inimitable musical director, Bev Kennedy, on piano.

Harrison reveals that, despite her apparent diva status, she shops at Target, wears tracky pants when at home with her children, and barely hides a seething resentment for the industry that chewed up her life, and for Wicked, the show that nearly ruined her voice.

Friday 13 June 2014

Grounded, June 13, 2014 ****

By George Brant, by Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre
Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, St Kilda, until July 12, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ****
 Full review also published in Herald Sun online and in print on Tues June 17, 2014. KH

Kate Cole Pics by Jodie Hutchinson

Alone on stage, Kate Cole grabs the audience by the throat and doesn’t let go until the end of George Brant’s monodrama about a former fighter pilot who is demoted to flying drones.

After years as a US Air Force ‘rock star of the skies’ flying F16s in the Middle East, this unnamed pilot fall pregnant, takes leave to marry and raise her little girl; but she craves the blue skies and adrenalin rush of flying.

When she returns to work three years later, she is appalled to find that she is grounded and assigned to 12 hour shifts at a desk in Las Vegas from which she remotely pilots a drone over the Pakistan desert.

As this arrogant, manic woman, Cole prowls the tiny space like a caged tiger, with her energy barely contained, her teeth gritted and eyes blazing with frustration at her incarceration in this grey bunker, far from the real action of Pakistan.

Cole self-narrates this elite pilot’s story, posturing like a rock star as she proudly relives her years as an elite pilot and describes the joyful camaraderie of being ‘one of the boys’.

Thursday 12 June 2014

The King and I, June 12, 2014 ***1/2

Music by Richard Rogers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on novel by Margaret Langdon
Princes Theatre, Melbourne, until Aug 31, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published  online in Herald Sun and in print on News pages June 13. KH


In an exotic and sumptuous display of crimson and gold finery, Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s enormously popular musical, The King and I, bursts onto the Princess Theatre stage with its parade of memorable and singable tunes.

The musical is based on a 1944 novel inspired by the memoir of Anna Leonowens, British governess to the King of Siam’s children during the 1860s.

As part of his plan to modernise Siam (Thailand), The King of Siam (Jason Scott Lee) invites Anna (Lisa McCune) to educate his numerous children and wives about Western customs and the English language.

Anna argues persistently with the King about her contract that forces her to live in the palace, about his outmoded views, his treatment of his slaves, and the ‘kowtowing’ that compels all his subjects to bow deeply before him.

Scott Lee and McCune make the most of the conflict between the King and Anna that is heightened by the unspoken but palpable attraction between the two characters.

They express the hidden love between the pair in Shall We Dance? when they perform a lively but intimate polka during which McCune glides gracefully as Anna, and Lee gallops gleefully like a playful puppy as the King.

Thursday 5 June 2014

The Speechmaker, June 5, 2014 ***

By Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner & Rob Sitch
Melbourne Theatre Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until July 5, 2014 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Saw this last night. Full review now below and also online at Herald Sun. KH

Erik Thomson (James Bickford, President USA), Nicholas Bell (Bob, White House Chief of Staff) Pic Jeff Busby


If you are expecting The Speechmaker to be a scathing satire of US politics you will be disappointed, because its comedy is far less penetrating.

The script employs a certain comical cynicism, but it looks like farce or extended sketch comedy, which reflects the background of writers, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch, who are renowned for their clever, television comedy shows.

However, the play lacks the complex layers and corrosive, political commentary of the extraordinary UK satire, The Thick Of It, which mocks the British government so blisteringly, or the incisive character observations of Max Gillies or John Clark.

US President, James Bickford (Erik Thomson), boards Air Force One with his entourage of fawning micro-managers after his Christmas speech, styled by a reality TV director (Toby Truslove), starts trending on Twitter.

On board, the President’s image machine takes flight as his advisors devise increasingly mad and manipulative ways of elevating his status, until the Defence Secretary (David James) and his professorial Under-Secretary (Lachy Hulme) reveal the most bizarre and, until now, secret strategy.