Tuesday 31 December 2019

The Choir of Man, REVIEW coming Friday Jan 3, 2020.

I will post my review of The Choir of Man this coming Friday Jan 3, after it hits print.
 Suffice to say, see it before Jan 12  in Melbourne or wherever it goes after that. KH
Front-George Bray & Ben Langridge_image credit David & Chris Cann
Front-George Bray_image credit David & Chris Cann

Friday 20 December 2019

Chicago, Dec 19, 2019 ****

Lyrics by Fred Ebb, music by John Kander, book by Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse
Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
At State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Feb 23, 2020 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
This is a short review and it is NOT published in Herald Sun. KH
Alinta Chidzey, Jason Donovan, Natalie Bassingthwaighte
It's saucy. It’s sassy. It’s sexy. It’s Chicago, and it’s back on stage in Melbourne with a celeb-studded cast and plenty of seductive and vivacious dancin’ and singin’.

This Australian production of Kander and Ebb’s musical, is based on the New York production and the choreography captures the essence of Bob Fosse’s unforgettable, pulsating, almost indecently sensual choreography.

Alinta Chidzey is a stand-out as the spicy, feisty murdering Velma Kelly. Chidzey is a genuine triple threat – singer, dancer, actor – and her rendition of All That Jazz with the ensemble was almost a show-stopper – at the start of the show.

Natalie Bassingthwaighte is pert and impish as Roxy Hart, the newest murdering bimbo in gaol and Velma’s rival for public sympathy generated by outrageous lies from their publicity machine. As well as being a television celebrity, she can dance and sing!

Leading their ‘fake news’ campaigns is Billy Flynn sheister and merchandiser, played by Jason Donovan (Yes, that Jason Donovan!) who depicts Flynn as less the grubby, grasping, grinning and villainous game show host and more as the smarmy, smiling and acquisitive, corporate CEO.

Casey Donovan, with her great stage presence, a bold and versatile voice, wows the audience as Matron Momma Morton, singing When You’re Good To Momma. Momma will do anything for her inmates/girls – for a price.

Cell Block Tango is always a highlight in Chicago and the six women, led by the inimitable Chidzey, make their six chairs blush with their suggestive choreography and the audience cheer at their versions of the various murders they have committed.

Chicago is a hoot, and this is a fun and mischievous version.

by Kate Herbert

Anna REVIEW, until 22 Dec 2019 ***1/2

by Bagryana Popov, presented by La Mama Theatre 
at La Mama Courthouse, until Dec 22, 2019 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2

This review also published in print in Herald Sun on Friday 20 Dec 2019 (not online). KH
Bagryana Popov_Anna_ pic by Justin Ko

In her solo performance, Anna, Bagryana Popov depicts the grim and perilous world of Bulgaria during the Stalinist Soviet era when government surveillance and spying on loved ones was the norm.

Anna, the narrator and central character, is married with one child and is a writer of children’s stories. At the beginning of the play, Anna is an old woman who recalls the desperate period from 1949 to the early 1950s when she was manipulated by the Secret Police to act as an informer.

Popov tells the story through Anna’s eyes, but also populates the stage with eccentric characters, including an ugly bureaucrat and his weaselly assistant, Secret Police, a shrill neighbour and Anna’s husband’s mistress, amongst others.

The first half of the piece, deftly directed by John Bolton, is particularly compelling, disturbing and often funny as we laugh at the sheer absurdity of the bureaucracy confronting Anna as she negotiates a Catch 22 situation involving money deposited in a bank account in her name.

Although the second half feels less cohesive – perhaps because there is less narration by older Anna to thread it together – there are some quirky and engaging scenes with Popov portraying Anna’s fantastical fairy tales, her escalating isolation, poverty and, eventually, her paranoia.

Popov is known for her work with the Bulgarian women’s choir, and she incorporates into the narrative several Bulgarian songs that evoke a sense of place and imbue the characters with colour.

In the sparse set design (Lara Week), towering, grey filing cabinets cast long, forbidding shadows, while gloomy lighting (Bronwyn Pringle) accentuates the bleakness of this secretive and dangerous totalitarian world.

In this 21st century, many people still live under despotic regimes, suffering surveillance and forced to keep secrets and speak in whispers to remain safe and free.

Anna is pertinent in our world because the Bulgaria of the 1950s and its Secret Police may be just a change of government away.

by Kate Herbert

Thursday 19 December 2019

REVIEW of ANNA coming tomorrow!

My REVIEW of ANNA by Bagryana Popov  will be online here tomorrow, Friday 20 Dec 2019!

At La Mama Courthouse till Sun Dec 22.
 Stand by.

From Media Release:
'Written and performed by Bagryana Popov, ANNA is the result of years of research into historical documents, the dossiers of the Bulgarian Secret Police, and interviews, interwoven with the fantastical dark stories of a children’s writer Popov read as a child'

Bagryana Popov_Anna_ pic by Justin Koh 

Tuesday 3 December 2019

I Shot Mussolini, Nov 28, 2019 ***

By Alice Bishop, by Le Poulet Terrible, presented by La Mama
At La Mama Courthouse, until Dec 8, 2019 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***
This review also published in print in Herald Sun on Tues Dec 3, 2019. (not online)
Heather Lythe as Violet / Greg Parker as Pennetta (ensemble at rear) by Renan Goksin
The Honourable Violet Gibson, an Irishwoman, shot Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, in Rome in 1926, but, despite her best intentions, injured only his nose.

Based on this little-known, true event, I Shot Mussolini, written and directed by Alice Bishop, uses source material including The Irish Baron’s Daughter and Mussolini’s Nose by Richard Collin, and is a fascinating, often funny, sometimes tragic story of the ailing, ageing, and privileged Violet Gibson (Heather Lythe).

This episodic play begins with Violet’s apprehension, then charts her ensuing incarceration, using stylised action, a parade of characters and some witty dialogue.

Violet, a wealthy Irishwoman who converted to Catholicism, manoeuvres a path from botched assassination attempt, through police interviews, psychiatric assessments and even consultations with various saints who she views as her co-conspirators.

Lythe plays the eccentric Violet with an impeccable Irish accent, and is compelling, disturbing and credible as this cunning woman who feigns madness, confesses to political conspiracy, or tilts into genuine delusions and religious mania.

The ensemble, wearing black and white, plays multiple roles as nuns, police, judiciary, journalists and saints. The acting quality varies and some of the Italian accents are patchy, but there are some stand-outs.

Greg Parker is commanding as the dignified, persistent Chief Superintendent Pennetta, Michael F. Cahill is stately as defence counsel, Ferri, Bridgette Burton quirky as Violet’s companion, and Marco Lawrence comical as the gesticulating Radoani.

The sparse, black and white design, evocative projections (Salvador Castro) and dim lighting (Stelios Karagiannis), create a dreamlike quality, accentuating Violet’s foggy, distorted perception of the world.

Despite its unevenness, this production leaves us wondering how the world might have changed had Violet succeeded, and hearing Mussolini’s rambunctious speeches and his rabid supporters chanting, ‘Viva Il Duce’, reminds us that Fascism is only a vote away.

by Kate Herbert 
Heather Lythe as Violet  by Renan Goksinn

Designer Salvador Castro
Lighting Stelios Karagiannis
Sound Nat Grant
Bridgette Burton -Mary McGrath Violet’s companion,  Other roles
Michael F. Cahill - Ferri Defence counsel,  Other roles
Marco Lawrence - Ranaodi,Fiat Salesman,  Other roles
Matthew Moloney – Mussolini and Magistrate,  Other roles
Anthea Davis, Sophie Lampel- Other roles