Sunday 28 March 2021

Enoch Arden, streaming until Thur 1 April 2021 ***1/2



Poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson, music by Richard Strauss

By Brisbane Music Festival and Victorian Theatre Company

Streaming Wed 31 Mar & Thurs 1 April at 8pm AEDT (Melbourne/Sydney time)


Reviewer: Kate Herbert


This review only published on this blog. kh

                                                       Matthew Connell

The epic tale of Enoch Arden by Alfred Lord Tennyson, with melodramatic music by Richard Strauss, is imbued with sweet melancholy until its final, heart breaking moments.


This is a tale of a loving, lost and shipwrecked husband whose selflessness allows his wife to live a contented life without him even after he is rescued and returns to his home. 


As children, Enoch Arden and his friend, Phillip both love Annie, but it is Enoch she chooses to marry when they grow to adulthood. Annie and Enoch have children and live happily until fortune turns against them. Enoch, in a desperate plan to provide for his family, goes to sea, but is marooned for more than a decade on an isolated island, unbeknown to his wife.


Phillip cares for Annie and her children in Enoch’s absence and finally, after a decade, proposes marriage to Annie. Then Enoch returns.


This streamed version, is a moving, unembellished, on screen reading by Matthew Connell with subtle and sensitive piano accompaniment by Alex Raineri, who is also on screen.


Tennyson’s evocative, lyrical language paints the poignant tale of the optimistic but ill-fated sailor, Enoch Arden, while Strauss’s music underscores the emotional landscape. The two performers share the screen with a visual design (Jak Scanlon) comprising images of rural landscape, seething oceans and inky, cloudlike designs.


Connell, wearing headphones, reads Tennyson’s words with his warm, lyrical and emotive voice, capturing the melancholy of the story and the winds of change in Enoch’s life. Connell’s youthful, almost Raphael-esque appearance – intense, blue eyes, softly curling hair, cherubic mouth – add to the eerie otherworldliness of the performance.


Although the visual design is inventive and often beautiful, at times it is over-wrought, such as when it depicts two hands wringing and clenching in despair.


Enoch Arden is a compelling 70 minutes of viewing which does justice to both Tennyson’s poetry and Strauss’s composition.


by  Kate Herbert 

                                                                                    Alex Raineri on piano 

Monday 15 March 2021

Homer’s Iliad, Stork Theatre, 14 March 2021 (REVIEW) ****



Homer’s Iliad, Stork Theatre

At Fairfield Amphitheatre, Sunday 14 March 2021 (one date only)

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 14 March 2021

Stars: ****

 This review is of only a short excerpt of the readings on 14 March. It is published only on this blog. KH

Homer's Iliad at Fairfield Amphitheatre. (Sigrid Thornton reading.)

What a better way to witness the reading of Homer’s Iliad than seated in a stony Amphitheatre, beside the drifting, slightly murky waters of the Yarra at Fairfield Park, with its fringe of gum trees and a natural soundscape of water birds, canoes and children play


I caught the end of Book 16 read by the versatile Tanya Gerstle, and the beginning of Book 21 read by the honey-voiced Paul English, but I was fortunate to hear all 30 minutes of Book 18, read by Geraldine Cook.


Cook, with her evocative, warm, gently physical and often witty reading, conjures the world of the battleground as Achilles mourns the violent death of his friend, Patroclus, at the hands of Hector, the ferocious, Trojan warrior.


She entrances us with her vivid narration, which is impassioned, empathic and atmospheric, evoking the passion of the goddess mother, Thetis, and the fierceness of her son Achilles, the fastest runner of the Greeks, the son of a goddess and a mortal.


The grief and songs of mourning are an undercurrent and backdrop to Achilles adamant assertion that he will recover Patroclus’ body from the battlefield before Hector can remove it and mount Patroclus’ head on the palisades as a trophy of war.


Thetis, who bore Achilles to the mortal Peleus, tells Achilles to wait for her to bring him immortal armour from the gods, since he has lost his own armour on the battlefield. Once he has this armour forged by the ageing, crippled god of fire, Achilles storms the battleground and retrieves Patroclus’ body.


The Siege of Troy, now in its tenth year, comes to life in this powerful reading and some valiant audience members stayed for the entire eight hours of gods and heroes to hear readings by Cook, Gerstle and English, as well as Eloise Mignon, Dushan Philips, Sigrid Thornton, Helen Morse, Jack Charles, Jane Montgomery Griffiths and Matt Furlani.


by Kate Herbert

PS: There was approx 85% allowed and no masks required. I think I was the only person sporting a mask! it just doesn't feel right yet.

Friday 12 March 2021

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, MTC, 11 March 2021 ***



Written by Hannah Moscovitch 

MTC Southbank Theatre, until 1 April 2021

Reviewer: Kate Herbert -reviewed on 11 March 2021


This review is published only on this blog. KH

Izabella Yena & Dan Spielman, photo Jeff Busby


Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s two-hander, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, is an entertaining but superficial story that cries out for greater depth and complexity and ends on an unfinished note.


This Australian premiere at MTC, directed by Petra Kalive, features Dan Spielman as Jon, a thrice-married, successful author and much-admired university lecturer, and Izabella Yena as Annie, his 19-year-old student, fan, and eventually, lover. By embarking on this liaison, Jon risks his teaching position and his precarious marriage.


The play was written in the period of the #MeToo movement, but it fails to challenge any views – pro or con – of the relationship and it skims over the issue and the politics surrounding it, never penetrating the surface.


The story is almost all narrated by Jon, from his point of view and in the third person, but the young woman’s viewpoint is totally obscured, which reduces the impact of their secret interaction and its aftermath.


Spielman, as Jon, launches an irresistible charm offensive on both the audience and Annie, delivering some dialogue that shifts rapidly from arrogance and self-absorption to self-deprecating humour.


Yena is a warm and cryptic presence as Annie, despite having very little layering written into the character.


Moscovitch gives Annie no narration and very little dialogue within the scenes with Jon, so it is difficult to discern whether she went into the relationship with her eyes ‘wide shut’ and was completely aware of the potential explosiveness of the seduction.


This, it seems, is intentional, to avoid taking sides or simply slamming the older male in this unevenly weighted relationship between a university lecturer and his student.


In 2018, the world of media and social media lit up with the #MeToo movement and we were confronted with stories of offensive, institutional sexual abuse by men in positions of power, and some other stories of a less criminal nature.


When we were faced with online trolling, bullying and a murky mix of both proven and unsubstantiated attacks on both men and women, it was difficult to root out any kind of truth from the mud.


One must draw comparisons with David Mamet’s Oleanna, written much earlier, in 1992, a play about a female student accusing her male lecturer of sexual harassment. Mamet’s play is a much more penetrating analysis of the complexity of the relationship, the confusion of motives, the obscuring of truth and of the disastrous repercussions.


The disappointing and unsatisfying ending which avoids the argument from the woman’s point of view seems like a cop out. There will be opposing views so let’s see them. #MeToo was controversial so why not make the play controversial, too?


By Kate Herbert

PS: This was the first MTC production since theatres closed exactly 12 months ago. There was

no social distancing but the audience wore masks, and the auditorium was divided into four quadrants. Still, I was nervous on my first outing to a theatre with real people talking, coughing, walking, breathing, acting.





Homer's Iliad, Stork Theatre, 14 March 2021

 The details below are all from the website of Stork Theatre. I did not write any of it. The show is in the open air at Fairfield Amphitheatre. KH


A stunning Amphitheatre by the river
10 starring actors and performers
8 hours of gods, heroes and lovers at war
3 Japanese drummers

An 8-hour Performance Reading extravaganza.
Fairfield Amphitheatre. Fairfield Park Drive, Fairfield Park

Sunday 14th March 2014. 11am to 7pm

Each performer will read from a key chapter of THE ILIAD for approximately 30 minutes.
Directed by Alex Madden.


1150BC. Troy, on the coast of Turkey.

The Siege of Troy is now in its tenth year, a few months before the end of the war. Agamemnon, Achilles and the Greek Armada of 1000 warships are camped on the shores. They remain locked in battle to crush the city and win back Helen, ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’. Helen, tormented by Aphrodite, hides behind the castle walls with Paris, her Trojan prince. They are protected by the hero Hector, King Priam and Queen Hecuba. The Gods watch from above, stirring the action for their favourite players, as “the will of Zeus was moving towards its end…”


It is extraordinary that in this ancient battle epic, the poet Homer gives the last lines to women. Incredibly, the very last word is Helen’s, the adulteress and the loneliest woman at Troy! Join us to experience these ground-breaking humanist revelations, written thousands of years ago.



Session 1: 11am

Book 1 – A plague devastates the Greek Armada. Agamemnon takes Achilles’ girl Briseis. Achilles storms back to his crew, the Myrmidons, swearing to fight no more.

Book 3 – Helen, standing on the castle walls, reveals the Greek heroes to King Priam. Aphrodite intervenes, warning Helen. The god Apollo rescues Paris from the battle.

Book 6 – Hector accuses his brother of cowardice, as Paris hides in the bedroom with Helen. Paris says he “will fight”, tomorrow.

strong>Book 9 – Odysseus leads an embassy with Nestor and Phoenix offering treasures to persuade Achilles to return to the battle. Achilles questions the virtue of glory in war.

Session 2: 2:15pm

Book16 part 1 – Achilles prays to Zeus seeking courage for Patroclus. Patroclus heads into battle in Achilles’ armour.

Book 16 part 2 – Hera, Queen of the Gods, challenges Zeus’ moral right to intervene in the affairs of mortals. As Apollo enters the fray, Hector slays Patroclus.

Book 18 – Achilles is mad with grief. Thetis, his goddess mother, arrives with her sea nymphs and compels him to remember fate. Achilles faces his earlier choice.

Book 21 – Achilles fights the River Scamander as it bursts into flames. The goddesses Athena, Aphrodite and Hera clash, vying for the victory promised by Paris many years before.

Session 3: 5pm

Book 22 – Hector questions whether the prize is worth the war. Achilles is already upon him. Achilles drags the body behind his chariot back to his encampment.

Book 24 – Priam crosses no-mans-land to ransom Hector’s body. Priam kisses the hand of the man who killed his son. Helen has the last word.


Fairfield Amphitheatre Summer Series 2017



Monday 8 March 2021

HYMN, Almeida Theatre, streamed, 8 March 2021 ****1/2


Written by Lolita Chakrabarti

By Almeida Theatre London, Streamed online until 8 March 2021

Reviewer: Kate Herbert


I reviewed the streamed version of HYMN on 8 March 2021 in Melbourne Australia. This review appears only on this blog .KH

In HYMN by Lolita Chakrabarti, two actors, Adrian Lester (Gilbert/Gil) and Danny Sapani (Ben) take us on a joyful and poignant journey tracing the burgeoning friendship and love between two 50 year-old men.


At Gil’s father’s funeral, the tentative, working class Ben approaches the more confident, outgoing and glib Gil and, although, until this day, they have been strangers, Ben reveals that they may be brothers.


The vibrating core of this production, deftly directed Blanche McIntyre, is the virtuoso performances of Lester and Sapani who play the two men with intensity, warmth, playfulness, fierce physicality, vivacious wit and vibrant musicality.


It is clear that Chakrabarti wrote this play for these specific actors (one of whom is her husband, Lester). The production was developed during Covid Lockdown in London in 2020, so it was rehearsed and performed with social distance between the two actors and played to an empty Almeida Theatre.


All action takes place on a wooden platform (des. Miriam Buether) on an empty stage with the occasional tap-tap of a metronome to beat out the pulsating rhythm of the men’s interactions as they pace around each other, boxing, dancing, rapping and singing (musical direction, DJ Walde; choreography, Robia Milliner).


Lester plays the piano live and, man! he can sing – and so can Sapani.


The atmosphere is enhanced by bold lighting (Prema Mehta) and evocative soundscape (Gregory Clarke).


There may be no physical contact between the actors, but the characters feel intensely intimate and give the illusion that they are hugging or holding each other, even from a distance.


The episodes in Gil and Ben’s relationship cover a year in which they share their families, histories, loves, secrets and fears. At the core of each of their pasts is Gus, their father, absent in death but an overwhelming and perhaps overbearing presence who is a third, unseen character in their story.


Their growing love for each other swings from passion and anger to joyful dancing and child’s play that characterises their craving for brotherhood.  Gil wants the two brothers to work together and his new project seems ideal. But, as we can expect, nothing goes to plan and their story ends in melancholy, having come full circle.


HYMN is a powerfully performed and cleverly written play that is compelling even when streamed online and performed with social distancing. Bravo!


HYMN is now streaming on the Almeida site.


by Kate Herbert


Sunday 7 March 2021

Single Ladies Now, re-posting review from 16 Oct 2020 ***


Red Stitch, online 16 Oct 2020 ***

By Michele Lee 3 x 10 minute monologues

Red Stitch Theatre online

Reviewer: Kate Herbert


I am re-posting this review (16 Oct 2020) of the ONLINE abridged version of Single Ladies, now that the live show is on stage at Red Stitch. 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 4 March 2021

Redemption Room, 4 March 2021 ***1/2



By Secret Theatre

Online via Zoom

February 26 - March 13, 2021. Various times (See AED dates)

Tickets via Eventbrite

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 4 March 2021


You can’t escape the Dark Entity in Redemption Room, a wild, hilarious and, by the end, scary live and interactive theatre experience.


This is fun, immersive, online theatre created and directed by Richard Crawford for UK company, Secret Theatre.


Rex Shakespeare (probably not his real name) is an effusive game show host who introduces guest ‘celebrities’, all of whom have been disgraced in different ways, and want to atone, apologise or seek redemption for their transgressions.


These dislikeable narcissists join the show from their homes to reveal their worst fears and their past sins. Then we, the audience, judge them by voting in a Zoom poll.


Harry Bevoor, a disgraced UK MP accused of sexual harassment, loves hunting wild animals. Addison Black is drug cheat Olympian (New York), Marlon Williams a comedian (Sydney), Wendy Tai (Hong Kong) ‘danced on the grave of Donald Trump’, and Aziz Khan (Mumbai), is a DJ hounded for ‘ghosting’ his lovers.


A sixth contestant, Izzy, is chosen from the audience – or so it seems.


The audience participates by commenting in the Zoom Chat, and their snide remarks make the show even more entertaining.


But, when Wendy faces her greatest fear, a séance with a ouija board, a dark entity enters the narrative, and the celebs face real and violent judgement. Does anyone received redemption or is vengeance ours?


I laughed and squealed throughout the hour, but it got scary in the last minutes, particularly when the Dark Entity said my name!  My NAME!


Redemption Room is a hoot! Get a cuppa and log on for a wacky ride!


by Kate Herbert


NB: There is a 2020 movie called Host that has a similar structure and plot. Not sure which came first.