Saturday 21 November 2020

UnMute - Improvisation on Zoom (UK) 20 Nov, 2020 ****


On ZOOM on 20 November 2020  

Reviewer: Kate Herbert


 This review published only on this Blog. KH

L-R: Luke Sorba & Pippa Evans in UnMute


In UnMute, close up on the zoom screen, we see two improvisers minds in a whirl as they conjure character, place and dialogue in a split second. It is a joy to behold!


Improvisors, Luke Sorba and Pippa Evans (Oliver Award winner), create a series of Zoom calls between two people. Off-screen, Paz, the ‘Voice of Reason’, feeds them characters and locations taken from audience suggestions in Chat and calls ‘Unmute” to start each new scene.


The first scene features Adam (Luke), a bookseller who calls Helen (Pippa) who is working in a sweatshop making leather trousers and is terrified she will be caught chatting on Zoom. She hilariously uses the Zoom screen to show her tiny fingers that help with the fine stitching.


In the second call, Helen (Pippa) then calls her social worker, Rupert (Luke), to discuss her current employment in the sweatshop. However, his incompetent advice and obviously dodgy duplicating of her passport, all lead to him admitting he is not a social worker but a former casino worker who was furloughed and retrained during the pandemic.


Rupert, (Luke) then speaks to an anxious woman is Picadilly Circus as she stands by the statue of Eros. and they reveal they are a couple and their conversation escalates into an argument about their marriage and his demands on her.


This same supercilious wife (Pippa) then talks to her unbearably over-confident, smug yoga teacher, Marco and they get mired in murky existential psychobabble. The improvisers minds create some riotous dialogue including him naming his yoga poses after types of pasta e.g. the Fettuccini. She then teases him with sexual innuendo about the Downward Dog.


The yoga teacher (Luke) in Hampstead calls a Scandi Noir detective, Lisbeth, (Pippa) in Stockholm to search for a missing person – his yoga student. She speaks in cryptic, odd English in an accent that is a collision of Swedish and Welsh, using strange and indirect allusions.


Finally, Lisbeth, the Scandi detective, calls Adam, the bookseller (Luke), to order books on dream interpretation. Her strange English expression and mad dreams and imagery prompt him to write his own book and her asks her to help him.


UnMute is a hoot to watch as the two improvisers, with great ease, weave a web of interconnected stories and finally make sense of this improvised world of characters



by Kate Herbert

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Pulp Playhouse Reunion 7 Nov, 2020 ***1/2


Produced by Pulp Playhouse hosted by BATS Improv 

Date: 7 Nov 2020 via ZOOM 

Reviewer: Kate Herbert 

Stars: ***1/2

This review published only on this blog. KH

Top L-R: Regina Saisi, Rafe Chase, Joshua Raoul Brody; Lower L-R: O-lan Jones, Mike McShane, Brian Lohmann 


On 7 November 2020, BAT Improv hosted a reunion show by members of Pulp Playhouse, an inspired and inspiring company of improvisers who explore genres in their storytelling.


The company’s first show was 23 April 1988 in San Francisco. and the members changed over the years. The shows I saw in the 90s featured Paul Killam, Diane Rachel, Barbara Scott, Regina Saisi and others.


This online show boasts improvisers from San Francisco and Los Angeles: Regina Saisi (director of the show), Rafe Chase, O-lan Jones, Brian Lohmann and Mike McShane, with music by the incomparable Joshua Raoul Brody.


On the Zoom screen, we see the improvisers narrate stories and play characters alone in their homes, some against virtual backgrounds, as they tell crime fiction stories in the style of pulp novels. Each is a discrete narrative introduced by a pre-determined character who asks for a story title from the audience who post their title ideas in the Zoom Chat.


In Story One, Regina Saisi, as narrator, Eleanor Hillary Shackleton III, is in a snowstorm surrounded by her huskies. She tells the story of The Wild River in which Cynthia meets Ralph, a gentleman who slips into a river. She saves him with her poetry and, perhaps more practically, with a makeshift canoe that tumbles over a waterfall.


The narrator of Story Two is Brian Lohmann playing Arlo Fisk, former – or is failed – FBI agent, now FBI archivist, who welcomes us to FBI: Inside! from the FBI Archives library (a black and white, virtual background).  Fisk, a character Lohmann created for early Pulp shows, narrates the story One Bullet, an exciting story told by a dull man. Lohmann’s characterisation of the dour FBI officer, Fisk, is awkward, rigid and hilariously earnest.


‘Crime is bad. Nobody likes it!’, says Fisk dryly.


In One Bullet, Mike McShane as Herman Kitter, a man of influence, is confronted outside his barber shop by a man and woman with nude photographs that could ruin him. Lohmann, as Fisk, says about Kitter, ‘He had a susceptible kidney’.


Story Three is narrated by Rafe on his character’s 30th anniversary with his ventriloquist dummy bride. He tells his bride a story about a woman (Regina Saisi) alone in a cabin who meet and befriends Sasquatch (McShane) outside her lonely cabin. This becomes a love story as eccentric as that of the narrator and his dummy bride.


O-lan Jones as Roliimpsia Queen of the World, the laid back and petulant warrior princess, narrates The Swedish Fish, a story about Princess Volartua (Regina) whose herald finds in Sweden a poetic Fish (Brian) that can sing a beautiful, Swedish Fish song.


The final story is by Mike McShane as elderly Peepers Keeperbaum, a former child star living in a retirement home. In his crusty aged voice, McShane narrates the clever and witty Clara Bow and the Model T, about a meeting between Clara Bow, pert, silent movie actress with a squeaky piping voice, and Henry Ford, inventor and captain of industry.


The expertise and ease of these versatile and masterly improvisers creates narratives and characters that inspire and entertain. Let’s hope for more reunions shows.


by Kate Herbert

Friday 6 November 2020

Love Letters to Melbourne, 6 Nov 2020 ***1/2



By Finucane & Smith

Zoom on Thurs 5 Nov 2020 at 7pm

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***1/2

 This review published only on this blog. KH

This online version of Love Letters to Melbourne by Finucane & Smith, is a cornucopia of diverse performers streaming to us directly from their living rooms, bedrooms and even a bathtub.


It comes to us via Zoom – with all the expected zoomy technical problems that crashes the streaming just after interval. (Maybe it came back online, but I gave up trying after 10 minutes.)


Rachel Lewindon plays pre-show piano while we peer at other guests – in their Zoom windows – lounging, sipping wine or wandering off waiting for the show to start.


Our host, the inimitable Moira Finucane, steps on screen and greets almost the entire audience of 100+. She glitters in lame, pouting her scarlet lips as she talks about Melbourne deserved this love after being locked down for 100 days.


Shirley Cattunar, a woman in her 80s, sings Stand By Me from her couch, unaccompanied.


To the song, One Night in Heaven, and watched by a gaping Molly Bashful, Maude Davey pulls strawberries from her bosom under her strapless black taffeta gown.


In his Sydney studio and wearing glittery boots and a belt of stuffed toys, Paul Cordeiro performed a dizzy disco dance.


Next, Caroline Lee tells an erotic suburban poolside story featuring zucchinis, nipples and Derek’s glistening shaft, that was inspired by Lockdown and is interrupted at a crucial moment by a Zoom drop out!!


Meanwhile, Maude Davey almost upstages Lee, as Davey dressed for her next spot wearing red, thigh high boots and shimmering black veil obscuring her face and moving to Am I Blue.


Mama Alto sings Memories (Streisand) unaccompanied, then Finucane returns as the Milk Queen, in her bath, wearing white bikini and pearls, grimacing and writhing in litres of milk.


After a short interval, Die Roten Punkte, Otto and Astrid, perform from their bedroom Second Best Friend (Ooh ah!), “Time to wake up to tickle all the corners.” This is their love letter to Melbourne.


The Zoom failed on Otto and Astrid’s last, lip-smacking, screen-kissing farewell and we were left marvelling at the impact of Zoom in our lives as artists and wondering what came next in the Love Letters.


By Kate Herbert



Saturday 24 October 2020

Loaded (Audio) by Christos Tsiolkas, 24 Oct 2020 ***1/2

Adapted from novel by Christos Tsiolkas with Dan Giovannoni

By Malthouse Theatre

Audio version online. Tickets from 30 October 2020

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***1/2

This short review published only on this blog. KH

                                                                       Roy Joseph

Set in Melbourne in 1995, Christos Tsiolkas’ novel, Loaded, was a transgressive, subversive and grungy view of Ari, a young, Greek gay man’s adventures with drugs, clubbing and sexual hook-ups.


Malthouse Theatre’s cancelled its stage adaptation of Tsiolkas’ 1995 debut novel and has now replaced it with an audio version adapted by Tsiolkas with Dan Giovannoni, directed by Stephen Nicolazzo and featuring Roy Joseph as Ari, self-narrating his story.


This adaptation is like listening to an audio book with soundscape. It is a collision of 1995 and 2020 cultural references. 


Ari still plays a mix tape on CD while other references are updated with 2020 lingo, including ‘hipsters’, ‘Woke’, ‘swipe left’, mobile phone playlists and other delights unavailable in 1995.


Much has changed since ’95 in the arenas of sexuality and gender, drugs, music and partying, but Ari’s world is still lurid, graphic, provocative and probably still offensive to some.


If the four, one-minute videos on the website are any indication of the stage production, there would have been an abundance of mirror balls, vivid and violently flashing lights, loud club music accompanying graphic, physicalised sexual activity.


There is plenty of sexual imagery in the language of this audio version, but the listening audience is not confronted with visuals of writhing, groping and hooking up that might feature in the live production.


By Kate Herbert

Friday 16 October 2020

Single Ladies Now, Red Stitch, online 16 Oct 2020 ***


By Michele Lee 3 x 10 minute monologues

Red Stitch Theatre online

Reviewer: Kate Herbert


This review published only on this Blog. KH

Andrea Swifte, Jem Lai, Caroline Lee

The audio play is making a comeback since Covid closed down our theatres, and Red Stitch is on the audio bandwagon with three short, audio monologues based on Michele Lee’s Single Ladies, a play that was cancelled back in March.


Directed by Bagryana Popov, these three monologues by three women take place in Collingwood, an inner suburb of Melbourne with a colourful history and even more colourful current population.


Rachel (performed by Jem Lai) dubs herself ‘a sad insomniac‘. She lies in bed, listening to the last tram on Smith Street, checking her phone feeds, yawning, watching lesbian trash on Netflix and reminiscing about Em, her recent ex-girlfriend. For an entire night, punctuated by passing trams and noisy, drunk pedestrians, Rachel analyses the relationship and her own inability to let go and clear her house.


Lilike, A batty local woman from an immigrant past, is performed with a broad Aussie accent and vibrating, nervous energy by the inimitable Carolyn Lee. Every morning, she attends her ‘Collingwood friendship shrine’ where she chats to an odd collection of objects – a ceramic toad for one – that she has placed at her shrine.


Lee’s Lilike is already a strident objector to a car park being built by a construction company, and she now discovers that her own home is also to be developed for modern housing.


Andrea Swifte plays Anne, a middle-aged woman, who lives alone in a Collingwood apartment and is clearly lonely. She eats soup, makes calls, almost break into tears, then chastises herself. She phones various men who seem to be her previous dates, until one, Daniel, a farmer, is available to chat – about soup.


The character of Anne is enlivened by Swifte’s easy, relaxed, engaging and vocally strong performance. The context of the narrative is clearer in this monologue than in the other two but this may be because of the shift from stage to audio play.


These monologues will pass the time as you walk with your phone or lie in your bed musing about this mad, new world we are confronting.


By Kate Herbert

Thursday 15 October 2020

Loaded (Christos Tsiolkas) audio play of stage adaptation, from 30 Oct 2020

So, Melbourne theatres are dark but the Malthouse is gearing up for an immersive 4-part digital audio play version of the stage adaptation of Loaded (Christos Tsiolkas and Dan Giovannoni).

On sale to public from 30 October.

"Presented in four episodes with accompanying visual elements and available for download through Bandcamp via"

There is also a complementary panel event, Reloading Loaded.


From Media Release:

"Malthouse Theatre’s world premiere production of Loaded will be reimagined as an immersive four-part digital audio play, given it can no longer proceed on the stage as planned for season 2020, due to the current restrictions on live theatre.

"Award winning Melbourne playwright and theatre maker Dan Giovannoni (Turbine) has teamed up with Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap) to adapt Tsiolkas’ 1995 debut novel into an audio play — rewriting Ari’s odyssey from a 21st century perspective.

"Directed by Stephen Nicolazzo (Merciless Gods) and featuring Roy Joseph (Five Bedrooms), this queer migrant history follows 19-year-old Ari — a Greek, gay, and unemployed adolescent in 90s Melbourne — as he searches for an escape, of sorts, via sex, drugs, and dance clubs.


"In partnership with The Wheeler Centre, Malthouse Theatre will run a companion panel event, Reloading Loaded with author Christos Tsiolkas, writer Dan Giovannoni, director Stephen Nicolazzo, and facilitator Rebecca Harkins-Cross. The panel members will discuss Melbourne scenes, adaptation hurdles, and why Ari is a character that never gets old."

End Release

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Visitors: Darkfield Radio, Tues 13 Oct 2020 ***1/2

By Realscape Productions (AU) and Darkfield (AU)

On the Darkfield Radio App

7.30pm Tuesday 13 Oct 2020

18 minute audio play for two people

Reviewer: Kate Herbert 

Stars: ***1/2

This review published only on this Blog. KH

Visitors, by Darkfield Radio, is an evocative, intimate and eerie audio experience that brings performance right to our ears and transports us from our homes to places unfamiliar and unknown.

Listeners experience this audio play while seated in their own  living room with chairs facing opposite 3m apart. It is designed for two people, both wearing headphones, sitting with eyes closed, in a darkened room with a window, a door, a table and two chairs 3 metres apart. You’ll understand why when you embark on this experience. 

I won’t spoil the surprises with any more detail or revelations about who these visitors are or what they want from their hosts. Suffice to say, it is like attending a séance so prepare yourself for 18 minutes of sightly disorienting audio drama.


Each of the two listeners hears a different part of the story from the perspective of one of the visitors. The audio technique resembles that used in the UK production, The Encounter, performed by Simon McBurney. 


The ‘visitors’ arrive, and we hear two women’s uninflected voices telling us that they have many invitations. Then we hear their footsteps, chairs scraping on the floor and then breathing that feels alarmingly close to our ears.


Sounds shift startlingly from ear to ear in a semblance of reality, compelling us to open our eyes but it is much more fun if you don’t.


The women tell us that they are called Alex and Jean and are looking for the new Alex and Jean, which is disquieting as we have no idea what that means for us, the ‘visited’.


Alex whispers in my ear while Jean takes my friend away and I can hear their faint voices, as if through a door. It is an unnerving and profoundly intimate experience having someone inside my head without seeing her, although I have an image of Alex and her presence is palpable.


There are thunks and steps, doors opening and closing, distant voices and very close breaths. Throughout the experience, a disturbing soundscape ebbs and flows like waves.


Darkfield has so far welcomed 85,000 audience members in Australia and over 170,000 globally. It's best to experience it with two people. You must download the Darkfield Radio App onto your phone then follow the instructions. Even the instructions sound spooky!


By Kate Herbert

Monday 12 October 2020

Austen Con (Jane Austen Convention) Online 7 Nov 2020

This tickled my interest, mainly as it has an Improvised Austen play at 2.20pm on the day. KH

MEDIA RELEASE: 12 October, 2020

 Austen Con


Saturday 7 November, 2020 9am - 5pm


Running live online for ONE DAY ONLY on Saturday the 7th of November 2020, the third annual Austen Con is a much-loved celebration and exploration of all things Jane Austen.  

Running concurrently across two Youtube stations on the day - Pemberley and Netherfield - the program includes:

Pemberley (click to link to online program)

Session 1: 9am - 10am
Choose Your Own Austen Adaptation: Join a panel of Austen-enthused creatives who will match her major novels with outlandish adaption pitches. 

Session 2: 10:20am - 11:20am
Love and Friendship - Exploring Austen's Literary Legacy: Join Lauren and Hannah from the podcast Bonnets at Dawn as they talk about the authors that inspired Jane Austen and how Austen influenced the work of other classic women writers including Elizabeth Gaskell and Anne Brontë. 

Session 3: 11:40am - 12:40am
Austen’s Landscapes: Join Jo Russell-Clarke for an introduction to the landscapes of Austen’s writings. This includes a drawing session. 

Session 4: 1pm - 2pm
Performing To Strangers - Reading neurodivergence in Pride and Prejudice: Join Hannah Aroni and James Matthews of A_tistic as they consider what it might mean to read both Mr Collins and Mr Darcy as autistic, and talk about their work creating a neurodivergent retelling of Pride and Prejudice. 

Session 5: 2:20pm - 3:20pm
Austen-twisted Cabaret and Burlesque: Presented by Bradley Storer and colleagues, during this hour Melbourne performers bring their unique perspectives to themes in Austen’s work. 

Session 5: 3:40pm - 5pm
Beginner Regency Dance Lesson: Brought to you by Jane Bullock, Regency dancing is the perfect socially distanced activity. Clear a space, grab your water bottle, and put on your flat, non-slip dancing shoes!

Netherfield (click to link to online program)

Session 1: 9am - 10am
Choose Your Own Austen Adaptation: Join a panel of Austen-enthused creatives who will match her major novels with outlandish adaption pitches. 

Session 2: 10:20am - 11:20am
Oranges and Cloves: Kelly Lock runs a workshop with participants making traditional, edible Christmas decorations. 

Session 3: 11:40am - 12:40am
English Paper Piecing: Kelly Lock joins us again with an introduction to an age-old quilting technique. 

Session 4: 1pm - 2pm
Austen’s Bath Buns: Former MasterChef contestant Jess Jenkins takes us through techniques and a recipe for making the some of the buns that Jane Austen loved, adapting a period recipe for modern kitchens. 

Session 5: 2:20pm - 3:20pm
Improvised Jane Austen with Melbourne’s Soothplayers: Come and experience a wonderful array of curious characters that could have walked straight out of the pages of a Jane Austen novel. Featuring seasoned performers from The Improv Conspiracy, Big Hoo Haa, Impro Melbourne, iO Chicago and Second City Chicago.

Session 6: 3:40pm - 4:40pm
Austen’s Global Fashion Industry: Austen’s heroines dress in a way that we think of being specifically English, but Regency-era fashion has influences and impacts around the globe. Join Hilary Davidson for this fascinating hour. 

Also included in the ticket price is access to the wonderful Mansfield Park Market Hub