Tuesday 12 January 2016

Shakespeare’s Best Bits ****


With plays & characters from William Shakespeare
By Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Observatory Gate, until March 12, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
I reviewed the production on Jan 2, before opening night, with the director's permission. KH

 L-R Clockwise_ Mark Dickinson Andrew Hondromatidis Kevin Hopkins Hugh Sexton Antony Rive Scott Jackson

In the hands of a bunch of clever clowns, Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies quickly transform into madcap comedies that include Macbeth riding a wooden horse, King Lear as a rap song and Hamlet as Masterchef.

In Glenn Elston’s outdoor production, Shakespeare’s Best Bits, the clownish tradesmen from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – known as The Mechanicals – annihilate the Bard’s tragedies and histories in their riotous search for a play to perform for the Duke’s wedding.

With fine comic timing and delivery, hilarious characters, witty dialogue and direct engagement with the delighted audience, the cast of six rollicks through parodies of a parade of Shakespeare’s works.

Quince the carpenter (Kevin Hopkins) leads the buffoons in a parody of an actor’s warm up that precedes their hilariously idiotic rehearsals.

Macbeth is first to suffer these indignities with Flute the bellows-mender (Antony Rive) draped in tartan and gabbling in a shonky Scots accent while galloping around the stage on a hobbyhorse.

Accompanying him is the nearly naked Bottom the weaver (Andrew 'Hondo' Hondromatidis) playing a yellow bearded Banquo who sports a furry, orange g-string that brings new meaning to the name Bottom and new joy to ‘bad’ acting.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

The Wind in the Willows, Dec 30, 2015 ****

Adapted by Glenn Elston from the book by Kenneth Grahame
By Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Gate F, until Jan 23, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert (reviewed on Dec 30, 2015) 
Review also run in Herald Sun online and later in print. This review was scheduled on Dec 31 to be posted on Jan 6. KH

Head Chief Rabbit (Roscoe Mathers), Toad (Ryan Hawke), Ratty (Leigh Piper)_Pic Matt Deller 

It is nearly three decades since Glenn Elston’s first production of his adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s book, The Wind in the Willows.

This boisterous and playful outdoor show is back at the Botanical Gardens but, for its 29th season, Otis Elston, who once played Portly Otter, takes on the mantle of director of this show that captivates family audiences each summer.

Grahame’s book is very English and this production maintains the cheery, quaint style of the story and characters but injects it with local, topical references, bad puns, vivid costumes (Karla Erenbots) and bold make-up (Melanie Ranken) that bring it into the 21st century.

Roscoe Mathers as Head Chief Rabbit once again leads the band of merry animals in their adventures and engages the audience of all ages with his sardonic humour, musical skill and cheerful rifling of people’s picnic baskets.

Willows is a simple tale of friendship, morality and adventure and the children not only holler enthusiastically at the characters’ slapstick antics and idiosyncrasies but they also go on a dangerous adventure with the Rat Pack and Badger Patrol to rescue Portly the Otter (Alana Lewis) from the Wild Wood.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

The Three Little Pigs, (UK), Jan 2, 2015 ****1/2


Music by George Stiles, book & lyrics by Anthony Drewe, produced by Kenny Wax Family Entertainment, presented by Arts Centre Melbourne 
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Jan 17, 2015 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 4 & 1/2 
Review also in print in Herald Sun on Tues Jan 5, 2016 (TBC).
This pic is the UK cast. No pics available of the UK cast visiting Melbourne.

Picture three plump, pink singing piglets with their frazzled, single mother and you have the children’s musical version of The Three Little Pigs that premiered on the West End in 2015.

This vibrant, swift-paced production is billed as a ‘very curly musical tale’ and boasts singable music by George Stiles with a witty book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, the award-winning writers of new songs for the stage show of Mary Poppins.

Mother Pig (Lizzie Bea), whose husband was eaten by the Big Bad Wolf (Taofique Folarin), urges her three, dependent piglets, Bar (Mark Anderson), Bee (Sam Toland) and Q (Daniel Buckley) to leave the sty and move into their own homes.

Yes, if you run their names together you get ‘BarBeQue’, which is just what the Wolf plans to do to them to make yummy, pork crackling.

The piglets pack their swags, leave Mum’s pigsty and, after endless arguments, decide to live separately in three houses: eco-friendly Bee builds with straw, muscular Bar uses sticks while Q the bookworm constructs a brick house.