Friday 31 March 2023

Not Like Other Ghouls REVIEW 30 March 2023 ***1/2


By Alice Tovey

At Malthouse Theatre, The Tower until 9 April 2023

Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***1/2

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly, 3MBS, on Sat 1 April 2023. kh

Alice Tovey photo supplied

Not Like Other Ghouls by Alice Tovey is a one-woman comedy and musical cabaret that's both hilarious and thought-provoking. The premise of the show is that Tovey is hosting a dinner theatre performance with multiple celebrity guests (Hamish Blake, Wil Anderson, Oshe Ginsberg) who, for various absurd reasons, don't show up. However, Tovey manages to keep the audience entertained and engaged with her witty banter, infectious energy, and original songs about her love of horror movies.


Tovey's humour is edgy and unapologetic, and she fearlessly tackles topics such as the gay scene and its obsession with B grade horror movies (Scream, Freddy Krueger) the Twilight saga, teenage angst, monsters, fears, “Big Gender” and we even hear Nicole Kidman voice from beyond. 


Her lyrics are dense and clever, and she effortlessly weaves them amongst her humorous anecdotes and stories. Throughout the show, Tovey's personality shines through, and her charm, sass and mischievousness keep the audience entertained.


In addition to her humour, Tovey also shares her struggles with anxiety, and her vulnerability and confessional honesty about her own experiences add depth and resonance to the performance. Tovey's versatility as both a comedian and a classically trained singer is impressive, and she manages to create a solo show that's both entertaining and meaningful.


The show is also visually inventive, with clever use of projections, lighting, voice overs and rapid costume changes that add to the atmosphere.


Not Like Other Ghouls is a brand-new show from Tovey so it will tighten up over the season, but I’d recommend it for anyone who loves smart, insightful comedy that's both hilarious and heartfelt. Tovey will leave you laughing, singing, and maybe even reflecting on your own fears and anxieties.


by Kate Herbert

Sunday 26 March 2023

Holding the Man PREVIEW until 1 April 2023


Adapted by Tommy Murphy from Tim Conigrave’s autobiography

By Taylor Made Productions

At Chapel off Chapel until 1 April 2023

Remaining shows: Sun 26 Mar, 4pm; Wed 29 to Fri 31 March, 8pm; Sat 1 April, 2.30pm & 8pm.


 L-R Declan Clifford, Jack Stratton-Smith,  Photo by Cameron Grant, Parenthesy


"Based on Timothy Conigrave's original autobiography documenting the 15 year love affair, Tommy Murphy adapts the story of star crossed lovers and encapsulates a celebration of love that speaks across cultures, identities, and generations. Holding the Man captures the raw emotions that we experience as we cling to love in the face of death, strive to live with purpose, and discover the fundamentals of what it means to be human."


Friday 24 March 2023

WAY REVIEW 23 March 2023 ***


Written & performed by Sally McKenzie

At La Mama Courthouse until April 2, 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***

This review is published only on this blog. I'll give a radio review on Arts Weekly, 3MBS, on Sat 1 April 2023. KH

Sally McKenzie in WAY pic by Darren Gill

In her solo play, WAY, Sally McKenzie embodies four older women, all of whom face straitened circumstances and find themselves without a home and facing alarming financial hardship.


WAY, written by McKenzie and directed simply and deftly by Sean Mee, traces the path of Lyn, a documentary filmmaker who struggles to find funding for her film about women over 55 who become homeless. In some cases, when one little thing goes wrong in their lives, it can lead to a cascade of adverse consequences. McKenzie is committed to telling their stories, honouring their trust in her and helping to change the circumstances of these and other homeless women.


With just a change of voice, posture and cardigan, McKenzie shifts between Lyn’s three interview subjects, each of whom travelled a different path to homelessness but all of whom experience fear, shame and a loss of identity and dignity. They have become invisible.


Lily is fragile, birdlike, suffers with ADHD, sleeps in a phone box, craves order and cannot manage the detail of everyday life much less dealing with housing offices; Maysie sells items she finds dumped outside homes in Toorak and is saving to move to a tiny house; Zahra was a well-heeled lawyer with a flourishing practice and plenty of financial assets but, after a damaging marriage, she slid into gambling and lost everything.


Meanwhile, Lyn is fraught when she loses her casual teaching hours, cannot secure film funding and cannot pay her rent. Her obsession with finishing her film leads her to borrow money from her elderly mother. It’s all downhill from there.


Performing on a set of just boxes and phone booth and an upstage projection screen, McKenzie is a versatile and capable performer who captures the vulnerability, isolation and shame of these women who have fallen on hard times for so many reasons. Her entire persona changes as she shifts between characters. McKenzie does not spend time making us weep. Rather she wants to make us think and act - a very Brechtian sentiment.



The script draws on real stories and facts about the housing crisis for older women in Australia. It is moving and impassioned and detailed. A niggling problem is that characters unnecessarily repeat their dialogue, and the script needs some editing to tighten it and remove this extraneous dialogue.


WAY certainly achieves its goal of raising awareness about this burning issue of women who find themselves homeless, without easy access to personal support and financial and housing solutions. It will make you think and, perhaps, want to take some action.

by Kate Herbert


Written by Sally McKenzie

Directed by Sean Mee

Performed by Sally McKenzie

Sound Design by J. David Franzke

Lighting Design by Clare Springett

Produced by theCoalface

Sunday 12 March 2023

Arts Weekly Radio REVIEWS Made in China 2.0, Bernhardt/Hamlet, & Juliet Sat 11 March 2023

Here's my radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 11 March 2023. I review:


 Made in China 2.0 (Malthouse), Bernhardt/Hamlet (MTC), & Juliet (musical).


I think the broadcast dropped out for a few seconds twice during China & Bernhardt. If so, persevere. k



Friday 10 March 2023

& Juliet REVIEW 9 March 2023 ****1/2


Music & Lyrics by Max Martin & friends, Book by David West Read

Regent Theatre Melbourne from Feb (Bookings currently available until 14 May 2023)

Reviewer: Kate Herbert


Problem, Can't Feel My Face - Lorinda May Merrypor with Original Australian Company & JULIET. cr Daniel Boud

If you take out the word “Romeo” from the title of Shakespeare’s famous romantic tragedy, you get simply & Juliet. In this time of shifting the focus from “the white male patriarchy”, it was only a matter of time before Romeo, and in fact, Shakespeare himself, were relegated to minor characters in their own play.


& Juliet is a jukebox musical that works better than other jukebox musicals because the 20+ pop songs, all astonishingly co-written by Max Martin, are cunningly incorporated into the new narrative (book by David West Read) which is based on Juliet surviving her formerly tragic Shakespearean end, surviving Romeo to go on and “live her best life”, make her own choices, reject parental control (which she has already done in Shakespeare’s play by marrying Romeo secretly) and travel to Paris with her new pals, gender-fluid best friend, May (Jesse Dutlow), and her brassy nurse, Angelique (Casey Donovan).


Meanwhile, Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway (Amy Lehpamer), urges him to give Juliet a new start in an independent life; Anne essentially dramaturgs the new play, teasing her husband with her novel ideas. 


This Australian production, deftly and lovingly directed by Luke Sheppard, is a vivid spectacle, with electrifying and pulsating choreography by Jennifer Weber, and performed by a youthful and diverse ensemble that is deliciously enthusiastic and ecstatic to be on stage. (Seven of the cast are debutantes in professional performance and had their own fan club on opening night.)


As Juliet, the multi-talented Lorinda May Merrypor is ebullient, vivacious and holds the stage with her bold presence and versatile voice. As Anne, Lehpamer is magnetic and her vocal range and control are exceptional, as always. Rob Mills as Shakespeare, finds the lightness and fun in the character as he lurks around the fringes of the narrative, trying desperately to maintain control of his play.


The set design by Soutra Gilmour is an audacious blend of Shakespearean, Parisian and West End with its neon signs, one of which cleverly transforms from “Romeo and Juliet” to simply “& Juliet”.


This appears to be a show that will appeal to 14 to 26-year-olds. (The 20ish young man beside me said he thought he was the target audience) but it will appeal to any audience that wants an effervescent musical to distract from the everyday – and you can get up and dance in your seats at the finale.


by Kate Herbert


& JULIET 3-Rob Mills & Cast -Credit Daniel Boud 

Lorinda May Merrypor Juliet

Amy Lehpamer Anne

Rob Mills Shakespeare

Casey Donovan Angélique

Hayden Tee (he/they) Lance

Blake Appelqvist (they/them) Romeo

Jesse Dutlow (they/them) May

Yashith Fernando (he/him) Francois

Georgia Anderson (she/they) Susanna

Jordan Koulos (he/him) Richard

Sarah Murr (she/her) Lady Capulet / Nell

Coby Njoroge (he/him) Augustine


Creative Team

Max Martin Music & Lyrics

David West Read he/him Book

Luke Sheppard Director

Jennifer Weber she/her Choreographer

Soutra Gilmour Scenic Designer

Paloma Young she/her Costume Designer

Howard Hudson he/him Lighting Designer

Andrzej Goulding Video & Projection Designer


Bernhardt/Hamlet REVIEW 8 March 2023 ***1/2


Written by Theresa Rebeck, by Melbourne Theatre Company

At Sumner Theatre, Southbank, until 15 April 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***1/2

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present an audio review on Arts Weekly, 3MBS on Sat 11 March 2023. KH

Charlie Wu, Tim Walter, Kate Mulvany, John Leary in Bernhardt/Hamlet_photoPiaJohnson

Sarah Bernhardt was perhaps the most famous French actress of the late 19th and early 20th century. She was renowned for her mellifluous, entrancing, almost musical speaking voice and her charismatic,  presence as she posed, gestured and declaimed, delivering dialogue in the histrionic acting style of the period. Hers was no truthful, Method acting.


At the time of this imagined episode in Theresa Rebeck’s play, it is 1899 and Sarah is 55 and no longer able to play the ingenue roles that made her so famous, such as the ailing, and histrionically dying, Camille that sent audiences into paroxysms. (Her fans were known as ‘saradoteurs’, Sarah doters, i.e. those who dote on Sarah.) To recoup financial losses and make a splash, she decides to play Hamlet, perhaps the most famous and most notoriously difficult of Shakespeare’s male characters. A woman playing this role in 1899 was outrageous.


Kate Mulvany – who very successfully inhabited Richard III a few years ago – may not have the melodic voice and magnetism of Bernhardt, but she captures her ambition, vision, drive, larger than life personality, her compulsion to maintain her celebrity and her hearty appetite for sexual adventure, although the seductiveness and charisma is lacking.


Mulvany’s Bernhardt is brash, bold, often bullying, although the play also explores her vulnerability and trepidation. In Rebeck’s play, Sarah’s doubt, uncertainty, and almost paralysis in the face of playing the enormous role of Hamlet, is an echo of Hamlet’s own procrastination, self-doubt, confusion and self-examination.


Although, in reality, Bernhardt engaged Eugène Morand and Marcel Schwob to write a French translation of Hamlet for her, in Rebeck’s play, she enlists (bullies and charms, more like it!) the enamoured Edmond Rostand (Charlie Wu), the celebrated playwright, and writer of Cyrano, to write a new version of Hamlet that ditches Shakespeare’s poetry because Sarah finds it too wordy. Do I hear screams of horror?


The most successful and compelling moments in this production are extracts from Shakespeare and Rostand. The first is when Mulvany performs the famous soliloquy, “Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I”, the second is Marco Chiappi’s poignant and riveting depiction of Hamlet’s father’s ghost, and the last is Chiappi delivering a poetic excerpt from Rostand’s Cyrano.


In her first directorial role for MTC since becoming Artistic Director, Anne-Louise Sarks steers the production effectively, with the often-witty dialogue moving swiftly and the quirky characters engaging the audience. The evocative set design (Marg Horwell) is cunningly modular, with small set pieces moving on and off stage and a spectacularly vivid representation of Sarah’s exotic salon.


However, the casting does not do the play any favours, and the script itself sometimes labours with characters discussing the difficulty, intricacies and complexities of performing Hamlet and the struggle to deal with the poetry without annihilating Shakespeare. The pace of the production slows when the action does not advance and the play spins its wheels, but thankfully, finally arrives at a resolution.


By Kate Herbert


Tahlee Fereday, Kate Mulvany, Marco Chiappi Bernhardt/Hamlet_photoPiaJohnson

Kate Mulvany Bernhardt/Hamlet_photoPiaJohnson

Constant Coquelin Marco Chiappi

Lysette Tahlee Fereday

Louis John Leary

Maurice William McKenna

Sarah Bernhardt Kate Mulvany

Francois / Worker Dushan Philips

Raoul Sahil Saluja

Alphonse Mucha Tim Walter (poster designer)

Edmond Rostand Charles Wu

Rosamond Izabella Yena



Director Anne-Louise Sarks
Set & Costume Designer Marg Horwell
Lighting Designer Amelia Lever-Davidson
Composer & Sound Designer Joe Paradise Lui
Fight & Movement Director Nigel Poulton
Voice & Text Coach Geraldine Cook-Dafner
Voice & Text Coach Amy Hume
Associate Set Designer Jacob Battista
Costume Associate Sophie Woodward
Assistant Director Tasnim Hossain
Intimacy Coordinator Amy Cater
Assistant to the Fight Director Tom Royce-Hampton
Fight Captain Tim Walter
Assistant Fight Captain John Leary

Stage Manager Whitney McNamara

Friday 3 March 2023

Made in China 2.0 REVIEW 2 March 2023 ****


Written, co-directed and performed by Wang Chong

Malthouse Theatre

At Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, Southbank until 19 March 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ****
This is not a review in the traditional sense, although I've given the production stars.

This print comment will be published only on this blog. I’ll do a radio comment on Arts Weekly 3MBS on Sat 11 March 2023. KH

Wang Chong_Made in China 2.0_credit Tamarah Scott

 Made in China 2.0 is the second production presented in Australia by Wang Chong, a Chinese theatre director, writer and performer. The first was Little Emperors in 2017, also at the Malthouse, written by Chong with Lachlan Philpott.

In this unusual, solo performance, co-directed by Emma Valente, Chong begins with a casual, direct address to the audience that reveals him to be, a charming, ebullient performer as he talks engagingly about his development as a theatre artist and his life in art

What follows is a sometimes surprising, often harrowing but always enlightening representation of his risk-taking theatre style and his personal views on art and life.

Chong is magnetic and his theatrical style is challenging and will leave you with plenty to think and talk about on the trip home - and perhaps for days after.

I am unable to discuss the specifics of this production, so this is not a review as such. You’ll have to see Chong's charismatic performance to judge it for yourself.

By Kate Herbert


Wang Chong – writer performer, co-director

Emma Valente -co-director, production designer

Emma Lockhart Wilson – co-designer

Wang Chong_Made in China 2.0_credit Tamarah Scott