Monday 29 August 2022

Heart Is A Wasteland REVIEW OF PREVIOUS PRODUCTION July 1, 2017 ***


NB: This is a review of the 2017 production with a different cast from that of the latest 2022 production.

Written by John Harvey, by Brown Cabs Productions and Malthouse Theatre 
At Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, until July 16, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 1, 2017 
Review was also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon July 3, 2017 and later in print. KH
 Ursula Yovitch, Aaron Pedersen - Photo by Deryk McAlpin
Heart Is A Wasteland is John Harvey’s debut as a playwright and, despite the undoubted quality of the actors and the dramatic potential of its premise, this script is not yet ready for the stage.

Harvey describes his play as ‘a road trip, a crazy, black love story set over a few nights’, and when Raye (Ursula Yovich) meets Dan (Aaron Pedersen), the encounter between this seemingly mismatched pair rapidly becomes intense, lustful and increasingly fraught.

Pedersen is startling, compelling, totally credible and fully immersed in his role as the damaged, uncouth but endearing and sometimes inarticulate Dan, who was a youth worker but now works in the mines and nurses a sad secret.

Friday 26 August 2022

More Than a Game REVIEW August 25 2022 ***

The Unauthorised Footy Show Musical

Book by Jacob Buckley & Michael Whyntie, Music & Lyrics by Walter Buckley

At Chapel off Chapel, The Loft 25-28 August 2022

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***

This review published only on this blog. KH

Amelia Hender Ned Baulderstone Harry Fiedler Walter Buckley-pic Frank Lynch

It’s bad enough when your personal life goes to hell when your best friend hooks up with your recently ex-wife, but when you're a faded footy hero and TV footy identity, your private life explodes into a very public media frenzy. And so it was for the hapless Footy Show clown and former AFL footballer, Billy Brownless.


Of course, once the dust had settled, the last thing Brownless would want is a bunch of young musical theatre makers performing a totally unauthorised version of his personal horror story, complete with songs, parody and drunken histrionics.


With book by Jacob Buckley and Michael Whyntie and music and lyrics by Walter Buckley (I presume the Buckleys are related?), More Than a Game is a hoot. The songs are full of witty, well-observed lyrics and there are several rocking tunes played by a tight four-piece band led by arranger Regi Ashman.

Monday 22 August 2022

Caught, Red Stitch REVIEW Aug 20, 2022 ***1/2


Written by Christopher Chen

At Red Stitch Theatre, St. Kilda until Sept 11, 2022

Reviewer: Kate Herbert (Reviewed on Sun Aug 21, 2022)

Stars: ***1/2

This review published only on this blog. KH

Caught-David Whiteley, Jessica Clarke and Louis Le-pic Jodie Hutchinson  


Christopher Chen’s play Caught begins with an address by Chinese dissident artist Lin Bo (Louis Le) to the audience at a pop-up art gallery, then proceeds to unravel not only Lin’s story but our entire understanding of truth in art, journalism, power and theatre itself. The play is like a Russian doll, a Rubik’s Cube, a kaleidoscope that changes every time it moves, disorienting the viewer.  


Lin’s opening speech is both charming and alarming as he describes his experiences in a Chinese prison after his arrest for plotting a conceptual protest rally on the anniversary of the Tienanmen massacre. In a calm, almost cheerful tone, he describes the appalling conditions, inedible food, frequent interrogations and rats leaping from toilets in his open-air cell during his two-year imprisonment. Lin’s story featured in The New Yorker and made him a celebrity artist in the US.


What follows is a gradual deconstruction of Lin and debunking of his horrific tale by the ambitious but vulnerable New Yorker journalist (Jessica Clarke) who wrote his story, and her spiky, obnoxious editor (David Whiteley). Their interrogation of Lin begins as a search for truth then deteriorates into brutal absurdity.

Thursday 18 August 2022

Anna K REVIEW Aug 17 2022 ***


Written by Suzie Miller

At Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse until Sept 4 2022

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***

This review is published only on this blog. KH

Callan Colley & Caroline Craig_photo Pia Johnson

With a central character, narrative and themes loosely based on Leo Tolstoy’s renowned novel, Anna Karenina, Suzie Miller’s play Anna K tells a disturbing tale of a TV current affairs, investigative journalist who breaks the golden rule of journalism – she becomes the story.


With echoes of the ill-fated Karenina, this Anna (Caroline Craig) is married with a child but leaves her husband when she falls in love with Lexi (Callan Colley), a young SAS officer almost 20 years her junior who she met when he was the source for her sensational news story about abuse and bullying in the army.


The play takes place in a smart hotel suite (designer, Anna Cordingley) a few days after Anna has left her husband and awaits the arrival of her 10-year-old son so she can break the news to him of his parents’ separation. Anna and Lexi are evidently locked in love’s sweet embrace, initially oblivious to the fact that their affair has been leaked to the media which leads to her being flayed and castigated on social media, pursued by the hostile media flocking outside their hotel, then ostracised and finally suspended by her TV station.

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Hairspray REVIEW Aug 15, 2022 ***1/2


Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman; Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan

At Regent Theatre (Closing date NA)

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***1/2

This review is published only on this blog. KH

Mackenzie Dunn, Javon King, Carmel Rodrigues, Sean Johnston-pic Jeff Busby

Hairspray, the musical, is a heady blend of singable tunes, 1960s dance routines and bouffant hairdos (and hair don’ts), high gelato colour palette and the fumes of Ultra Clutch hairspray.


This sparkling, new Australian production directed by Matt Lenz (original direction by Jack O’Brien) features choreography recreated by Dominic Shaw (original choreography by Jerry Mitchell).


The musical is based on John Waters’ 1988 kitsch, camp movie starring drag queen Divine as the overeating, reclusive laundress, Edna Turrnblad (played in this production by Shane Jacobsen), but composer Marc Shaiman, co-lyricist Scott Wittman and writers Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, created a commercial hit show featuring Edna and her daughter, Tracey (Carmen Rodrigues).

Sunday 14 August 2022

Laurinda MTC REVIEW Aug 11 2022 ***


Adapted by Diana Nguyen from Alice Pung’s novel

At Sumner, MTC Southbank Theatre until Sept 10, 2022

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: *** (3)

This review published only on this blog. KH

Ngoc Phan, Chi Nguyen, Fiona Chou, GEmma Chua-Tran, Jenny Zhou-photo Jeff Busby

It is difficult to translate the nuances and complexities of a novel into a stage script and production and, in the case of this adaptation of Alice Pung’s Laurinda, a work of Young Adult Fiction, any subtlety is lost at the outset.


After a 35-minute delay on opening night because of “technical problems”, the play begins with barely controlled hysteria as the lead character Lucy Lam (Ngoc Phan), now in her late 30s, surges onstage in a lather because she has discovered that her award for teaching excellence will be presented by a former school colleague and renowned bully, Brodie Newberry (Gemma Chua-Tran), now youngest Chief Justice in Australia; an unlikely achievement at her age, but let’s suspend our disbelief.

Wednesday 10 August 2022

Creation Creation REVIEW Windmill, August 10 2022 ****


By Windmill Theatre

At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, 19-20 August 2022

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars:**** (4)

This review of recorded version on August 10, 2022. This review is published only on this blog. KH


Creation Creation by Windmill Theatre is a delightfully whimsical, eccentric and sometimes poignant physical and visual performance that will appeal to children and adults alike.


It asks the big questions such as: how the world was created, what happens after death, how humans create babies and even why some people can lick their elbows. These questions and their multitudinous answers can be heard in excerpts of recorded interviews with ordinary people ranging from ages 8 to 102.


On a totally white stage, two non-speaking performers, Jox (Jonathon Oxlade) and Fleur (Fleur Elise Noble), use odd objects and geometric pieces of cardboard to create playful representations of the voiced ideas, including an array of creation myths from cultures including Egypt, Greece, Iran, India, China and indigenous Australians. Meanwhile, from the side of the stage, Auslan interpreter Dan Cleasby translates the voice overs.

Saturday 6 August 2022

Louisa’s Dawn REVIEW August 4, 2022 **1/2


Written by James Howard

At La Mama Courthouse, until August 14, 2022

Reviewer: Kate Herbert 

Stars: **1/2

This review was first published in The Age Arts online on Friday Aug 5, 2022 and in print on Monday Aug 8, 2022. Click this link Louisa's Dawn and scroll to second review to read it in The Age online.


Gin O’Brien, Peppa Sindar. Mary-Rose McLaren, Tayla Harry, photo Darren_Gill

Australians will have heard of Henry Lawson, the renowned Australian writer, but few will know that his mother Louisa Lawson published The Dawn, a journal specifically for Australian women, between 1888 and 1905, employing 11 women to produce the publication.


James Howard’s play Louisa’s Dawn explores the courageous, relentless spirit of Lawson during the time she established her journal, published material challenging the status quo and faced rabid opposition from men. The male unions were outraged at the temerity of this woman who worked in the male-dominated printing industry, employed non-union women (women were not permitted to join unions) and supported women’s rights to vote and to earn money – rights now taken for granted.

Thursday 4 August 2022

Medea: Out of the Mouths of Babes, REVIEW Aug 3 2022 ***


At Theatre Works, St. Kilda until August 20, 2022

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***

This review was first published in The Age Arts online on Thursday Aug 4 and in print on Friday Aug 5, 2022. Click this link Medea-Babes. to read the review in The Age online. Scroll down to find the review.

L-R Emily Joy, Paolo Bartolomei, Willow Sizer photo by Morgan Roberts    


When developing Medea: Out of the Mouths of Babes, director Steven Mitchell Wright filtered the ancient Greek tragedy about the abandoned wife and mother who murdered her children through a group of five youngsters – the “children’s council”.


The production features striking, vivid imagery and cleverly executed live and recorded video (Chris Bennett) that cunningly incorporates the children’s drawings and video of them playing. The style merges cabaret, soap opera, melodrama, television and cartoonish characters that echo the children’s imagery such as the relentlessly cheerful King Creon (Emily Joy) and Jason (Paolo Bartolomei) with his flamboyant, heroic posturing.