Saturday 25 February 2023

Arts Weekly RADIO REVIEWS with Kate Herbert Sat 25 Feb 2023


 Arts Weekly Saturdays 10-11am, restarted 25 Feb 2023

 Here's my first radio review slot for 2023 on Arts Weekly, radio 3MBS on Saturday 25 February 2023. Click on link below to listen. (It's video without pictures, so persevere.)

Kate Herbert radio reviews Arts Weekly 3MBS 25 Feb 2023

On this program, I bang through 7 shows: Wittenoom (Rd Stitch), Sunday (MTC), Nosferatu (Malthouse), Romeo & Juliet (ASC), Mary Poppins (Disney), Prima Facie (MTC) and The Mousetrap (Cassell). Phew! 14 mins. Luxury! 

I  restarted reviewing theatre for 3MBS on 27 Aug 2022 after a few years away from the station. kh




Wednesday 22 February 2023

The Mousetrap REVIEW 21 Feb 2023 ****


The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

At Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, until 26 March 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ****

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll give a radio review on Arts Weekly, probably on 25 Feb 2023. KH

The full cast of THE MOUSETRAP (c) Brian Geach

The latest Australian version of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is a polished and buoyant production of a deliciously old-fashioned murder mystery with taut, deft direction by Robin Nevin and detailed and nuanced performances by an ensemble comprising several theatre and musical theatre stalwarts and some talented newcomers.


This year is the 70th anniversary of the play’s first performance in England and it ran uninterrupted in London until Covid lockdowns slammed shut the theatre doors.


Of course, the story is a Whodunnit riddled with red herrings and suspicious, lurking characters with dark secrets and knowing looks. In the final denouement, we do find out who is the mad, murdering culprit. However, at the curtain call, one actor hushes the crowd and swears us to secrecy; for 70 years, audience members have kept the villain’s identity a secret.


Mollie (Anna O’Byrne) and Giles Ralston (Alex Rathgeber) face the opening day of their Guest House, Monkswell Manor, and they are wide-eyed and innocent novices at this hospitality business. The snow has set in and the guests – expected and unexpected – arrive in the nick of time before the manor house is snowed in. Unfortunately, the radio news informs them that a murderer is on the loose. Then a policeman telephones to inform them that the killer may be in their area but, later, the phone line is cut, preventing them calling for help.


Christie’s characters are distinctive and representative of English society after World War Two. The first to arrive is daffy, wild-haired and boyish practical joker, Christopher Wren (Laurence Boxhall), whose interest in the manor and its furnishings supports his claim to be studying architecture.


Next to arrive are the brusque, abrasive, pernickety Mrs Boyle (Geraldine Turner), benign and helpful retired army officer, Major Metcalf (Adam Murphy) ,and the tight-lipped and secretive Miss Casewell (Charlotte Friels). Their surprise guests are the moustachioed, make-up wearing Mr Paravicini (Gerry Connolly), who tumbles into their manor after rolling his Roll Royce in the snow, and, finally, the young and capable Detective Sergeant Trotter (Tom Conroy) who appears outside the window on skis. He has come to alert the Ralstons to the lurking danger on their doorstep.


In the inimitable way of a Christie mystery, everybody looks guilty, even the blatantly and preposterously innocent.


This is a rollicking good night at the theatre, and Nevin’s crisp and witty direction keeps up a cracking pace while the cast all show impeccable timing, flawless accents and articulation and total credibility as these eccentric characters.


The action takes place in the sitting room of the manor and the naturalistic set, with its fireplace, period furniture, soaring ceilings and leadlight windows looking out on falling snow, provides the ideal, inescapable location for a Christie murder mystery, while the period costumes (Isabel Hudson) are the perfect complement to the design.


The Mousetrap is full of surprises and twists and likely and unlikely suspects, but keep the villain’s name under your soft, felt hat – I’ve seen it before, and I couldn’t remember who it was but, as a murder mystery buff, I was tickled to keep guessing.


by Kate Herbert



Anna O’Byrne -Mollie Ralston

Alex Rathgeber -Giles Ralston

Laurence Boxhall -Christopher Wren

Geraldine Turner -Mrs Boyle

Adam Murphy- Major Metcalf

Gerry Connolly -Mr Paravicini

Charlotte Friels -Miss Casewell

Tom Conroy – Detective Sergeant Trotter


Creative Team

Robin Nevin – Director

Isabel Hudson – Costume design & Associate Set Designer

Trudy Dalgliesh – Lighting Designer




Sunday 19 February 2023

Nosferatu REVIEW 15 Feb 2023 ***


Written by Keziah Warner, by Malthouse Theatre

At Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse opens 15 Feb until 5 March 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***

This review is published only in this blog. I'll do a radio review on Arts Weekly, 3MBS  on Sat 25 Feb 2023. KH

(L-R) Shamita Siva & Jacob Collins-Levy_photo by Pia Johnson

Even though Keziah Warner’s play, Nosferatu, is said to be based on the classic 1922 silent film, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, do not expect gothic horror.


This stage version, directed by Bridget Balodis, leans toward entertainment rather than horror and verges on parody. It takes the original vampire story and sets it in Tasmania, in a fictional mining town called Bluewater in which both the environment and the people are dying, initially because of the pollutants but, in this story, because a vampire comes to town.


Tom (Keegan Joyce), a long-term resident, and Knock (Max Brown), the town’s mayor, want to revive the town; Tom because it is his family home and Knock because he is ambitious and greedy. So, when Tom receives an unsolicited offer of financial investment from a mysterious stranger called Count Orlok (Jacob Collins-Levy) who plans to develop a vineyard and produce wine, he leaps at the chance to save his town.


Unfortunately for Tom, Orlok is exactly what the audience expects him to be – a vampire. He stalks the town, sucks people in, then sucks their blood and makes the townspeople disappear – but his vineyard flourishes on strangely, suddenly fertile soil. Guess what is fertilising the earth?


As the smiling, villainous Orlok, Collins-Levy is sultry, secretive, seductive and manipulative with an edge of danger, while Joyce, Brown and Shamita Siva as Tom’s girlfriend, Ellen, are suitable dupes for his fearful charm. The only person who resists his advances is Kate (Sophie Ross), the pragmatic and sceptical doctor.


The first half is quirky and comedic as Orlok arrives to seduce the town, but the pace of the play flags in the second half as both dialogue and blood-sucking action become repetitive. The themes of a failing environment and an obsession with wealth and power are a little heavy-handed, but this is a parodic tale, so subtlety is not de rigueur.


Nosferatu is a bit of fun, but it cannot compete with the Bram Stoker’s novel or the spooky, threatening quality of the silent movie.


by Kate Herbert



Jacob Collins-Levy - Orlok

Sophie Ross - Kate

Keegan Joyce- Tom

Max Brown - Knock

Shamita Siva - Ellen


Creative Team

Bridget Balodis – Director

Mark Pritchard– Dramaturg

Bernadette Fam – Production Dramaturg

Romanie Harper - Set & Costume Design

Paul Jackson - Lighting Design

Kelly Ryall ­ Composer/Sound designer

Cessalee Smith -Stovall – Intimacy Choreographer





Saturday 18 February 2023

Romeo & Juliet REVIEW 17 Feb 2023 ***


Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company

At Botanical Garden, Melbourne, until 10 March 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly 3MBS on Sat 25 Feb 2023. K

Romeo & Juliet- L (from back) Khisraw Jones-Shukoor, R Wolfgang Reed photo Ben Fon

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a romantic tragedy that is justifiably one of his most beloved and frequently performed, and Glenn Elston has directed a buoyant, new production in the Botanical Gardens under the summer skies.


In case you've forgotten the story, Romeo (Wolfgang Reed), from the clan Montague, falls in love with Juliet (Tiffany Wong), from the opposing clan of Capulet. These two adolescents marry in secret only to be undone when Romeo kills Juliet’s Capulet cousin, Tybalt (Khisraw Jones-Shukoor), in a duel, for which Romeo is banished. It all ends in tragedy for the hapless young lovers.


The cast includes some older, skilful actors such as the inimitable and versatile Alison Whyte as Juliet’s Nurse, Syd Brisbane as a puppyish servant, Peter, Hugh Sexton playing a stately Lord Montague and Dion Mills as Friar Lawrence, but some of the acting in the rest of the ensemble is uneven.


Reed has boyish charm as Romeo, Paul Morris is a mischievous Mercutio and Jones-Shukoor is suitably arrogant and belligerent as Tybalt. Wong plays the challenging role of Juliet with youthful exuberance, however her performance lacks nuance and vocal technique and does not penetrate the heart of the poetic text.


While the Montagues’ costumes (Karla Erenbots) draw on a more traditional English period style, the costume design and choreography (Sue-Ellen Shook) for the Capulet family have an Indian theme, with the show highlight being a vivacious, celebratory Bollywood-style dance at the Capulet masked ball that had the audience clapping and cheering.


This lively, playful interpretation of Romeo and Juliet provides access to Shakespeare’s tragedies for those who may be new to his work. It may emphasise the characters’ playfulness and the comic elements in the first acts, but it steers a course into drama by the tragic ending.


by Kate Herbert  



Romeo & Juliet-Wolfgang Reed & Tiffany Wong photo Ben Fon

JULIET Tiffany Wong

ROMEO Wolfgang Reed

LADY CAPULET Nicole Nabout

NURSE Alison Whyte

LORD CAPULET Rajendra Moodley

TYBALT Khisraw Jones-Shukoor

PARIS Tane Accra-Williams

PETER Syd Brisbane

PRINCE ESCALUS Malith Wijayawardhana




BENVOLIO Alex Cooper


ROSALIND Akansha Hungenahally



DIRECTOR Glenn Elston





Monday 13 February 2023

Prima Facie REVIEW MTC 11 Feb 2023 ****


Prima Facie by Suzie Miller by Melbourne Theatre Company

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until 25 March 2023

Stars: ****

This review is published only on this blog but I'll give a radio review on Arts Weekly on Sat 25 Feb 20223. KH

Sheridan Harbridge in PrimaFacie_photo by Brett Boardman

Suzie Miller’s play, Prima Facie, smacks you in the face with its rapid-paced dialogue and energetic performance by Sheridan Harbridge, but its hardest slap comes from the deeply troubling themes of sexual assault and the treatment of female rape victims in the justice system.


Harbridge, alone on an almost empty stage, plays Tess Ensler, a successful defence barrister with 11 years post-qualification experience. She prides herself on her continuing winning streak and high-octane performance in court, her relentless, even heartless cross examination of witnesses and her pseudo-sensitive questioning of rape victims that unravels their evidence making their stories sound flimsy, ill-considered, poorly remembered, unlikely or, even worse, fabricated and false.


Miller’s dialogue conjures the courtroom, barristers’ chambers, Tess’s apartment and her working-class mum’s suburban home. Harbridge, unobtrusively directed by Lee Lewis, speaks directly, energetically and gleefully to the audience as Tess, intermittently dropping into the voices of other characters in Tess’s story: judges, barristers, colleagues, her mother, defendants, witnesses and victims.


Tess is a Rottweiler in the courtroom, going for the jugular to bring down her prey. She is passionate about winning – rather than being passionate about justice. However, Tess’s mischievous delight in winning at all costs – despite the adverse impact on her “victims” – evaporates when she becomes a sexual assault victim herself at the hands of a seemingly warm and gentle colleague.


As a victim, Tess must now contend with escalating trauma, confusion, unclear recollections, errors of judgment, awkward text messages from her (alleged) rapist and, 763 days later, an unfamiliar role as the beleaguered victim in her own rape case in a courtroom filled with men. Tess’s predicament has an icy edge when she recognises the barrister’s cunning tactics, but she is helpless in the face of such insensitivity that verges on cruelty.


Time shifts backward and forwards from the grim reality of “Now” to the promise and adventure of “Then”, including a snapshot of the Dean of her law school telling first-year students that one in three of their number would never become a lawyer. It was not going to be her!


Harbridge’s Tess is articulate, impassioned, belligerent and very ambitious, having come from a working-class background and beaten all those privileged, private school graduates to reach such heady heights in the Law. Her energy and excitement enliven the character but also cause her to blur some lines in the first half and she does not always clearly evoke other characters through voice, accent and physicality.


The play finishes on Tess’s final, long but heartfelt lecture about the injustice of the justice system for rape victims, but this dramatic device is too didactic and bolted on to make good drama and is too obviously the writer’s voice. Yes, it appeals to our sense of injustice and compels the opening night audience to leap to its feet as one; not, it seems, necessarily because of the quality of the production, but more likely because they agree wholeheartedly with Miller’s criticism of the justice system – as they should.



by Kate Herbert



Tess Ensler -Sheridan Harbridge


Creative Team


Director – Lee Lewis

Set & Costume – Renee Mulder

Lighting Designer – Trent Suidgeest

Composer & Sound Designer – Paul Charlier

Stage Manager – Katie Hankin


Monday 6 February 2023

Wittenoom REVIEW 5 Feb 2023 ***1/2


Wittenoom by Mary-Anne Butler

At Red Stitch Theatre, St Kilda, until 19 Feb 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert


This review is published only on this blog. I’ll also review it on Art Weekly on 3MBS on 25 Feb 2023.

Wittenoom- Emily Goddard, Caroline Lee -Credit Jodie Hutchinson

Wittenoom is a tragedy about a mother and daughter, a town and a community all damaged by an asbestos mine in the Pilbara. Mary Anne Butler’s play, directed deftly and imaginatively by Susie Dee, interweaves twin narratives about these two women, set years apart and expressed in totally different styles.

One is a lively, vigorous, often funny, episodic dialogue and self-narration between Dot (Caroline Lee) and Pearl (Emily Goddard), her 15-year-old daughter, as they negotiate their relationship in Wittenoom, a remote asbestos mining town. The second story portrays the pair at an unspecified time after they leave Wittenoom, after Dot receives her diagnosis of Mesothelioma, a terminal and untreatable illness caused by exposure to asbestos.

Butler’s spare, evocative poetic language elevates Dot and Pearl’s reactions to Dot’s medical condition, and the stillness, the performers’ direct address to the audience and the atmospheric lighting (Rachel Burke) intensify the impact.

In contrast, the interactions earlier in their lives in Wittenoom have a lightness, playfulness and muscularity in the language and performance. Dot talks about her lusty life pursuing, then disposing of a parade of men, her work in the miners’ mess and the pub, then her choice to take in boarders in their house. Her decision to move her young daughter to a remote community where she could earn good money, seems positive but leads to disaster for both of them.

Lee is compelling, audacious, energetic as the hard-bitten Dot who struggles to accept her impending death. Goddard captures the maturing of Pearl as she grows from teenage tearaway school dropout to a political activist, mobilising the miners to fight for safer conditions and better information about the risk of their environment.

The set design (Dann Barber) echoes those battered, abandoned, old billboards that appear on roadsides in the outback. This wooden framework provides a backdrop for Dot and Pearl’s dialogue as well as a physical framework that they can walk around, lean on, climb up, perch on, or disappear behind into the murky, dim recesses, while the insidious film of pale dust, the hazy atmosphere and crumbled wattle sprigs express the dusty, dying outback location.

Wittenoom is intense, densely written, funny and painful and it tells a powerful yet intimate tale.

by Kate Herbert

Wittenoom- Caroline Lee (L), Emily Goddard- Credit Jodie Hutchinson

This play was developed through Red Stitch’s INK program.



Emily Goddard - Pearl

Caroline Lee - Dot



Susie Dee - Director & Dramaturg

Dann Barber - Set & Costume Design

Rachel Burke - Lighting Design

Ian Moorhead - Composition/Sound Design

Cassandra Fumi - Assistant Director

Spencer Herd - Assistant Lighting Design

Olga Makeeva Costume Maker



David Bowyer - Production Manager

Cassandra Fumi - Stage Manager/ Assistant Director

Georgina Bright - Deputy Stage Manager

Sunday 5 February 2023

Mary Poppins REVIEW 3 Feb 2023 ****1/2


Original music & songs Richard M Sherman ad Robert B Sherman

New songs and music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, Book by Julian Fellowes

Based on PL Travers’ stories

Produced by Disney & Cameron Mackintosh with Michael Cassel Group

At Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from February 3, 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ****1/2

This review was published only on this blog. I'll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on 25 Feb 2023.

Stefanie Jones (Mary Poppins) with the Banks children- credit Daniel Boud

Mary Poppins needed her peacock-headed umbrella on a drizzly opening night in Melbourne, but even the rain could not dampen the spirits of the vivacious super-nanny, her vibrant supporting cast or her enthralled audience of children and adults alike.


Stefanie Jones is “Practically Perfect in every way” as the prim, proper, composed, effortlessly authoritative, acerbic, immaculately dressed, impeccably mannered, almost balletic and always magical Mary Poppins.


As Mary, Jones is “a triple threat” (sings, dances, acts) and matches the quality of her much-lauded predecessor, Verity Hunt-Ballard, who performed the role in Australia in 2010. Jones has a crystal-clear soprano, her character is a sublime blend of mischievous, pert, conceited and bossy, her comic timing is flawless, and she maintains Mary’s poise and wit while performing elaborate dance routines.


New songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe fit seamlessly among, and match the quality and singability of the beloved, unforgettable classics by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman written for the 1964 movie: Chim Chim Cher-ee, A Spoonful of Sugar, Let’s Go Fly A Kite, Jolly Holiday and more.


Julian Fellowes’ book for the stage production is witty, fast-moving and sensitively and entertainingly develops the storyline of the Banks family in crisis. Director, Richard Eyre, with co-director, Matthew Bourne, creates a cohesive, rollicking whole that incorporates startling stage illusion and spectacular choreography by Bourne and Stephen Mear.


Bob Crowley’s transformational set transports us from the Banks’ staid home in Cherry Tree Lane, into a technicolour park with dancing statues, onto the rooftops with the chimney sweeps, and into Mrs Corry’s Talking Shop. 

Stefanie Jones & cast - Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious_credit-Daniel Boud



The highlights are many, including inspired ensemble routines such as Supercalifagilisticexpialidocius in which Mary Poppins leads a bevy of eccentric characters in boldly colourful costumes in an almost miraculous dancing, singing, tongue-twisting and body-contorting rendition of the song.


As Bert, Jack Chambers astounds and charms the audience with his exceptional dance skills. Tom Wren is dignified and stitched up as Mr Banks, the banker, Lucy Maunder embodies the barely restrained free spirit of his wife, Winifred, while Harriet Sadler and Sebastian Sero are suitably precocious as the Banks children, Jane and Michael.


Marina Prior plays the wistful Bird Woman and, in total contrast, doubles as the redoubtable nanny, Miss Andrew, who, with her strict discipline, intimidating manner and ghastly medicine, terrorises everyone – except Mary Poppins.


Several confounding circus-like feats leave the crowd gaping: Chambers walks up walls and dances upside down on the ceiling and Mary flies across the stage and then disappears above the audience.


Choose your seats carefully because, if you are seated in the back third of the theatre, you will miss some of these remarkable feats that take place very high up on the stage or over the heads of the audience because your sight lines are restricted. Perhaps, if I’d been seated further forward in the theatre, this would again have been a 5-star review.


Mary Poppins is a remarkable musical for all ages and it is practically perfect in every way.


by Kate Herbert 



Stefanie Jones- Mary Poppins

Jack Chambers -Bert

Marina Prior- Bird Woman/Miss Andrew

Tom Wren- George Banks

Lucy Maunder Winifred Banks

Robert Grubb – Admiral Boom/Chairman of Bank

Harriet Sadler -Jane Banks

Sebastian Sero- Michael Banks

Hannah Waterman – Mrs Brill

Gareth Isaac – Robertson Ay


Creative Team

Richard Eyre, Director

Matthew Bourne – Co-director & choreographer

Stephen Mear – Co-choreographer

Bob Crowley – Scenic and Costume Designer

Hugh Vanstone & Natasha Katz – Lighting Designer


 Jack Chambers (Bert) performing Step In Time,  credit Daniel Boud


Marina Prior as Bird Woman_credit-Daniel-Boud



Act 1

Chim-Chim Cher-ee

Cherry Tree Lane Pt 1

The Perfect Nanny

Cherry Tree Lane Pt  2

Practically Perfect

Jolly Holiday

Let’s Hope She Will Stay

A Spoonful of Sugar

Precision and Order

A Man Has Dreams

Feed The Birds


Playing The Game

Chim-Chim Cher-ee (reprise)


Act 2

Cherry Tree Lane(reprise)

Brimstone and Treacle Pt 1

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

Good For Nothing

Being Mrs Banks

Brimstone and Treacle Pt 2

Practically Perfect (reprise)

Chim-Chim Cher-ee (reprise)

Step in Time

A Man Dreams / A Spoonful of Sugar (reprise)

Anything Can Happen

A Spoonful of Sugar (reprise)

Finale (Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious / Step in Time