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

Le Roundabout, 11 October 2020 ***1/2

By Impro Theatre LA (Online)

Improvisation  with performers from round the globe

Monday 12 Oct 2020 Melbourne time (aired LA time 2pm Sun 11 Oct 2020)

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***1/2

This review only published on this blog. KH

Luke Sorba (London) & Jeffrey Thompson (LA)

In this format called Le Roundabout, Impro Theatre LA invited improvisers from around the globe to do a show together on Zoom. They had only 45 minutes online together prior to the show and that wasn’t rehearsal time because it’s all improvised!


Director, Dan O’Connor, asks the virtual audience to type suggestions for a location and heirloom in the Chat and the first scene begins on a beach with a sunset over an ocean.


What follows is a mad, dating advice story dealing with miscommunication in relationships as couples meet, date, break up, hold, hands, kiss virtually, get back together, have inspired moments about love and miscommunicate constantly.


The tension is palpable for both performers and characters as they navigate the complexities of the virtual performance arena and the confusing relationship landscape. Ironically, given the virtual world, this show is not about online dating.


Joanne (Edi Patterson) breaks up with Jack (Jeffrey Thompson), her ‘hot’ but ‘curmudgeonly’ boyfriend whose cat strolls into frame and is instantly incorporated into the story which is now on the Cat Beach. (Accepting offers is an improvisation imperative, no matter what they are.)


Luke Sorba is hilarious earnest as Brian, the Cat Beach Moderator, who inadvertently becomes a dating moderator, advising his relationship-challenged cousin, Tom (Joe Bill) about the ‘hand-holding status’ of his relationship with Cynthia (Naomi Snieckus).


Brian has no human friends and spends his time listing actresses who played Catwoman and sending humans off the beach when it is Cats-Only time.


Meanwhile, Joanne is on a first date with Tony (Jun Imai, improvising in his second language) who impresses her with his antique film projector, his muscularity and his famous film director father – he’s a Coppola.


With the switches between screen – and countries – the improvisers occasionally do not run with some of the director’s specific offers that might raise the stakes further, such as, ‘Back at the cantina, chaos rules’.


However, the human and cat action escalates until Tom, in a heartfelt monologue, has a life-changing realisation about love with hilarious metaphors about growing vegetables and the story ends.


This is edge of your seat performance, not least because nobody, least of all the improvisers, knows what’s coming next. More trans-global impro, please!


By Kate Herbert



Jo Bill (Chicago)

Edi Patterson (LA)

Luke Sorba (London)

Naomi Snieckus (Canada)

Jeffrey Thompson (LA)

Jun Imai (Japan)


Directed by Dan O’Connor

Kari Coleman on Technical Direction (Switcher) 

Helen Allemano on Sound 

Rich Johnson on OBS Tech and Video.


Sunday 11 October 2020

These Folk, 11 Oct 2020 ***1/2

At The Boulevard Theatre (in Soho)

Improvisation Theatre online (with The Bristol Improvisation Theatre)

Performed on Fri 27 March 2020

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Reviewed on 11 October 2020

See this online at this link:

This review appears only on this blog. KH

Justin Brett and Susan Harrison improvise a mythical, musical journey in this show at the Boulevard in Soho that just squeaked in before the UK Covid restrictions closed London theatres.


Tall, lanky Brett is a contrast to Harrison, who is petite and sweet, and both are capable and charming improvisers who, with two musicians, are able to create a coherent and cohesive improvised landscape of characters, places and songs in a moment.


The inspiration for their 30-minute fable comes from an audience member named Equador (Yes, really!) who tells the pair that he made a bag this week out of his late grandparents’ old curtains. This surprising and evocative story is a gift for any improviser.


Brett and Harrison launch their tale with a word at a time story about Equador going on a journey with his bag. Brett, as Equador, sings the Song of Sadness then visits a Youth Hostel owned by a privileged, young woman called something that sounds like ‘Morona’. Their dialogue is riddled with puns and she dubs him a ‘pundamentalist’.


In a wonderfully poignant and philosophical moment, Equador says carries his memories and family with him in his bag made from grandparents’ curtains.


They reminisce about the past in a song called 1982 (‘What a time to be alive!’) but Equador travels on without Morona until he meets the Woman of the Border of the Balkans and sings The Woman of the Border, She Stands for Order.


The performance ends with a celebratory song called Now Is Where the Now Is, about going home and keeping the past with us in the present.


This is a joyful musical and comedic improvisation that highlights the skill and spontaneity of the two performers and their musicians.


By Kate Herbert

Saturday 10 October 2020

Missing People (Online), Leeds Playhouse, 10 Oct 2020 ***1/2

Written by Brad Birch

Produced by Leeds Playhouse & Kani Public Arts Center (sic) co-production

Filmed at Kani Public Arts Center, Japan, on 26 Feb 2020

Performed in English and Japanese with subtitles on video

Reviewed by Kate Herbert online, 10 Oct 2020

Stars: ***1/2

This review appears only on this blog. KH

Fortunately for those of us outside the UK, Missing People, written by Brad Birch, can be viewed online. Unfortunately for the company, this fortuitous turn of events is because the in-theatre season was cancelled on press night, 26 February 2020, in response to the Covid Pandemic.


This co-production between Leeds Playhouse and Kani Public Arts Center, Japan, is performed in English and Japanese subtitles and is co-directed by Mark Rosenblatt and Nobohiro Nishikawa, so language and cultural differences and clashes are at the forefront of the play.


Sakiko (Susan Hinkley) and Dan (Simon Darwen), travel from the UK to Japan to visit Sakiko’s parents, where their communication is clearly more problematic than simply a language barrier.

Dan’s mum, Linda (Ishia Bennison) accompanies the couple to Japan so that the two families can finally get to know each other and assist Sakiko and Dan to plan their upcoming wedding.


However, Sakiko’s mother, Chiyo (Natsumi Nanase), and father, Masaru (Yutaka Oda) are defensive, anxious and so secretive about their son’s whereabouts, that Sakiko suspects there are problems far more serious than issues at her brother's workplace.


This is a story of a prodigal daughter returning home, only to find that the ‘good’ son who followed the family’s rules has now become the prodigal.


The story is both a family drama and a mystery with the absent brother at the centre. The families must struggle with awkward, extremely formal communication and the beleaguered Sakiko is responsible for all slow and complex translations.


The cast brings depth, warmth and anguish to the characters and relationships as they struggle to understand each other and their predicament.


The stylised and austere, Japanese-inspire set design features tall columns and floating beams that loom over the characters and also act as narrow screens on which to project translations.   


The blend of languages intensifies the drama and suspense as we follow the trials of the family members and await news of the prodigal son.


Missing People can be viewed through this link:



Sakiko -Susan Hinkley

Dan -Simon Darwen

Linda -Ishia Bennison

Yasuko -Yuri Eikawa

Chiyo -Natsumi Nanase

Masaru -Yutaka Oda

Koji/Genki -HirokiTanaka


Set Design --Rumi Matsui

Costume -Rie Nishihara

Lighting -Elliot Griggs

Sound Design Matt Padden

Movement- Director Sachi Kimura