Sunday 30 April 2023

Small Metal Objects, RE-POST of 2005 REVIEW

 NB: This is a review of the 205 production at Flinders St Station in Melbourne. It runs 3-7 May 2023 at Fed Square. It runs 3-7 May 2023 at Fed Square, Melbourne.

By Back to Back Theatre, devised by  Bruce Gladwin, Simon Laherty, Sonia Teuben, Genevieve Morris, Jim Russell

Flinders St, Station Concourse, Fri & Sat 5 & 7pm, Tues 4pm, Wed 8.30pm, Thurs, 7pm  (OK) until Oct 22, 2005

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

2017-Small Metal Object HK Supplied
Small Metal Objects is a fascinating experience. The performance combines theatre with a very public form of eavesdropping.


The venue is Flinders St, Station Concourse where the audience is seated very publicly in a bank of seating facing the peak hour crowds rushing to catch their trains.


We put on a pair of headphones, under instruction from signs held up by the Stage Manager. Two voices are heard. At first it seems we are listening to a radio play.

Two men talk about their desires and needs. Gary, (Sonia Teuben) advises Steve (Simon Laherty) about his desire to find a girlfriend.


Slowly, members of the audience notice two figures standing and talking in the distance on the concourse. The dialogue seems to match up with their body language.


We are listening to their private conversation as they stand, the only still point in the Fluid, moving crowd.


Train travellers glance at the audience and rush on. Others stare as they pass. Some stop and watch us as if we are the show and others try to discern what we are viewing. A couple of courageous ones ask us what is happening.


Some of the public on the concourse become part of the show: a woman handing out flyers, teenagers smooching, the child who delightedly runs into the audience.


Gary's phone rings. It is the voice of Alan (Jim Russell) who cautiously asks to meet Gary to buy drugs. Alan eventually appears in the crowd, a man in a business outfit. He tries to pay Gary but his deal is stymied by Gary and Steve's reticence and their unwillingness to leave the concourse to collect the goods.


Finally, Alan calls for help from his friend, Carolyn, (Genevieve Picot) a $400 per hour psychologist who resorts to abuse once she realises Steve is not going to help them buy the drugs.


The collision of fiction and reality, of actors and commuters, of theatre and train station creates a delightful mosaic of narrative. We are allowed to enter several worlds simultaneously and to muse upon the place, the people, the event and our role in it.


One final compelling moment was when the actors took a bow and the audience applauded. Suddenly, the crowd parted like the Red Sea to clear a space for what they now knew to be a performance.


Back to Back Theatre is a company comprising actors both with and without intellectual disabilities.


By Kate Herbert

Saturday 29 April 2023


In today's radio spot, I review 3 shows: 

Macbeth, Bell Shakespeare.

Selling Kabul by Sylvia Koury at Red Stitch.

Arterial  by Na Djinang Circus.

It's about 10min 30.  Kate


Friday 28 April 2023

Macbeth by Bell Shakespeare REVIEW 29 April 2023 ***1/2


Written by William Shakespeare by Bell Shakespeare

At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until 14 May 2023  

Reviewer: Kate Herbert


This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly, 3MBS, on Sat 29 April.2023. KH

Jessica Tovey and Hazem Shammas in Bell Shakespeare's Macbeth_PhotoBrettBoardman

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is written with vivid, muscular, poetic language replete with grotesque and bloody imagery, supernatural beings, portents, hallucinations and serious psychological disorders. Peter Evans’ production goes part of the way to bring this grim and ominous play to the stage.


Macbeth (Hazem Shammas), a general in King Duncan of Scotland’s army, returns to court with fellow general and friend, Banquo (Julia Billington), to be hailed a hero in battle. But he is waylaid by the three weird sisters, witches who spookily prophesy that Macbeth will be given a new title and, "hereafter", will become King.


That prediction quickly becomes an obsession, and he and his wife, Lady Macbeth (Jessica Tovey), plot to murder Duncan when he visits their castle. But this "bloody business" begets more blood, murder and madness as Macbeth has all impediments and potential heirs removed from his path until he descends into mania and his world into mayhem.


Set on a sparsely decorated stage (Anna Tregloan), this production includes some atmospheric scenes, powerful interpretations of soliloquys, evocative lighting and sound. However, the play is peppered with some less successful scenes that do not do justice to Shakespeare’s text, and, although there are several highlights, the acting is uneven.


The opening minutes are promising, with echoes of the battlefield scattered with soldiers’ bodies, but the first witches’ scene breaks the spell; this trio lacks the requisite supernatural, portentous quality and makes the poetic incantations sound banal.


Shammas’ portrayal of Macbeth is audacious and novel, with an edge of demented clown. His Macbeth does not arrive on stage looking like a bold, courageous, battle-scarred general, but as an ordinary man. He very rapidly escalates into blood-thirsty megalomania and delusions that defy a psychiatric diagnosis – although I’m sure there is one.


This clown/king/solider/murderer/maniac reaches a climax after interval and Shammas brings new interpretations to the most famous of Macbeth’s monologues, including “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.”


The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is passionate and obsessional, both being driven by the desire for power, while she controls him by shaming him into keeping his promise to kill Duncan. Tovey’s strongest scene is the fraught, hand-wringing sleepwalking monologue, “Out damned spot.”


Billington’s Banquo is sprightly and suspicious of Macbeth from the outset, while Jacob Warner as Macduff brings tears to the eye with his grief at the murder of his family. The versatile Lugdon is imposing and dignified as Duncan, riotously funny as the Porter and menacing as one of the murderers. He penetrates Shakespeare’s text impeccably and is the highlight for me.


The quality of this production is erratic, but it brings a new vision to a much-loved Shakespearean tragedy.


by Kate Herbert



Hazem Shammas as Macbeth

Jessica Tovey as Lady Macbeth

Jacob Warner as Macduff

James Lugton as Duncan / Porter / Seyton

Rebecca Attanassio as Ross / Witch

Julia Billington as Banquo / Doctor

Isabel Burton as Lady Macduff / Witch

Jeremi Campese as Malcolm / Fleance

Eleni Cassimatis as Donalbain / Witch

Kyle Morrison as Lennox / Bleeding Captain




Director Peter Evans

Associate Director Abbie-lee Lewis

Designer Anna Tregloan

Lighting Designer Damien Cooper

Composer & Sound Designer Max Lyandvert

Movement & Fight Director Nigel Poulton

Dramaturg James Evans

Rebecca Attanasio, Isabel Burton and Eleni Cassimatis in Bell Shakespeare's Macbeth_PhotoBrettBoardman

Hazem Shammas and Jessica Tovey in Bell Shakespeare's Macbeth_PhotoBrettBoardman


Thursday 27 April 2023

Selling Kabul REVIEW 26 April 2023 ****


Written by Sylvia Koury, by Red Stitch Theatre

At Red Stitch Theatre until 21 May 2023  

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: **** ( 4)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly, 3MBS, on Sat 29 April 2023. kh

Khisraw Jones-Shukoor & Nicole Nabout (standing), Farhad Zaiwala & Claudia Greenstone (sitting) pic Jodie Hutchinson

If you imagine your life and the lives of those you love are in danger, and there is little or no hope of escape to a place of safety, then you may have an inkling of the appalling predicament facing the characters in Sylvia Koury’s play, Selling Kabul.


Taroon (Khrisraw Jones-Shukoor), a former translator for the US army in Afghanistan, has hidden for four months in his sister Afiya’s (Nicole Nabout) tiny, claustrophobic apartment in Kabul, awaiting a promised US visa, literally closeted in Afiya’s clothing cupboard to avoid the death sentence that will certainly face him if, or when, the ruthless Taliban track him down.


His wife has given birth to their first child and Taroon, in his desperation, repeatedly tries to leave the apartment to visit her in hospital, only to be stopped by Afiya who knows that he risks everyone’s lives if he is apprehended. Violent men await his appearance, nowhere is safe, everyone has secrets and anyone could be an informer.


Koury’s play and Brett Cousins’ taut direction have an atmosphere of impending doom and suspicions that Taroon has been betrayed or may even have carelessly revealed his own whereabouts. The performance moves with the weight and speed of a freight train travelling inexorably toward a grim future.


As Taroon, Jones-Shukoor embodies the volatility of incarceration fever, prowling like a crazed, caged creature, intermittently surly, apologetic, sulking like a child, raging, loving, rebellious or resentful, but always determined, despite the risks, to see his wife and new baby.


Nabout’s Afiya is febrile, vibrating with anxiety and fear, fiercely protective and maternal toward her brother and desperate to save him and protect her husband, Jawid, who is played by Farhad Zaiwala with gentle forebearance that is underscored by shame. As Afiya’s neighbour, Leyla, mother of a young baby, Claudia Greenstone captures a barely suppressed hysteria that finally bubbles to the surface.


There is a relentless sense of menace, rising frenzy, foreboding and helplessness in the face of dark forces outside. There are no good choices and there appears to be no happy future for this family. The ending of Selling Kabul is heart-wrenching but manages to salvage a glimmer of hope from the bleakness and despair.


by Kate Herbert




Taroon -Khrisraw Jones-Shukoor

 Afiya’ -Nicole Nabout

Leyla - Claudia Greenstone

Jawid - Farhad Zaiwala




Director - Brett Cousins

Set/Costume - Sophie Woodward

Lighting - Richard Vabre

Sound - Grace Ferguson


Monday 24 April 2023

Arterial REVIEW Sun 23 April 2023 ***


By Na Djinang Circus

At Northcote Town Hall until 30 April 2023  

Reviewer: Kate Herbert


This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly, 3MBS, on Sat 29 April.2023. kh

Arterial_NaDjinangCircus_Dylan Singh & Tamara Bouman_Darebin Arts Speakeasy_pic Darren_Gill

Arterial by Na Djinang Circus is less contemporary circus and more acro-dance and movement in its style and content.


The 60 minutes show, directed by Harley Mann who is also founder of Na Djinang, features four performers who are of indigenous heritage (Tamara Bouman, Maggie Church-Kopp, Dylan Singh, Johnathon Brown) and who are committee to accessible, cross-cultural, physical performance.


Mann ensures that Arterial resonates with indigenous dance, imagery and sound (composer Dannie Esposito); the ensemble’s movement has hints of snake and water imagery, and the space is ringed by branches of gum leaves.


Although there are no high-risk, spectacular circus routines, Church-Kopp performs a classic, albeit, simplified aerial tissu act, Singh presents a static trapeze routine and there is an adagio duet and a series of group balance routines.


The group’s movement work is about relationships. They shift in tone from playful to fearful to reflective, and their energy moves from vigorous to gentle or restrained. They engage and repel, drawing each other close or pulling and pushing each other away, changing moods from warmth to suspicion, friendliness to enmity.


At times their interaction is complex and acrobatic or based in contact movement, while at other is it simple walking and running. They use the body’s own sounds, particularly slapping of hands, and the final moment is a simple body percussion of stomping of feet, pounding of chests and breathing.


This Melbourne-based company may not present high-level contemporary circus, but it has heart.


by Kate Herbert


Saturday 15 April 2023

Kate Herbert Arts Weekly REVIEWS 3MBS Sat 15 April 2023

In this radio spot, I review 3 Comedy Festival shows:

  1.  Grey Arias by Adrienne Truscott & Le Gateau Chocolat
  2.  Lano & Woodley in Moby Dick
  3. Damian Callinan in Double Feature. 

All are part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2023.


Friday 14 April 2023

Damian Callinan in Double Feature REVIEW 13 April 2023 ***


Melbourne International Comedy Festival

At Tower Theatre, Malthouse until 23 April 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 15 April 2023.KH

Damian Callinan

Damian Callinan’s new Comedy Festival show, Double Feature, is a love letter to his late mother, Kathleen Purcell, whose favourite activity was a movie double feature at the local cinema in the northern suburbs. Oh, and she loved to dance, too.


The conceit of this solo performance is that Callinan has an unfinished, black and white film about his mother’s life – the funding ran out, of course – so he’s workshopping ideas and showing snippets of his film.


Dressed in old style, Fletcher Jones, high-waisted dad trousers with suspenders, and with mum’s early, post-War, 1940s diaries in his hand, Callinan reads excerpts that trace Kathleen’s uncomplicated life as a young Catholic woman, going to films or dances with a parade of keen, young men. Kathleen’s voice-over gives an added frisson to the memories of this hopeful young woman.


Callinan’s humour comes from his gentle jibes, witty interjections and satirical commentary on his mother’s unremarkable life, her close friends, her activities in local, Catholic groups and the revolving door of her beaus, who variously give her gifts of soap, take her to dances or try unsuccessfully to kiss her.


He starts a bookie’s board for The Kathleen Stakes, putting odds against the names of the various runners: Beaut Jack, Fancy Jack, Polish Count, and finally Fly Boy, whose odds shorten significantly by the end of the show. Their odds depend on Callinan’s arbitrary reactions to their behaviour – gentlemanly or otherwise – and Kathleen’s positive or negative responses.


At the start, he asks the audience who grew up Catholic in the northern suburbs, and plenty of hands fly up. Those of us who grew up Catholic got lots of his jokes that others may have missed, including dashing around local churches to find a Sunday evening mass, and the Children of Mary Catholic girls’ group. He even has a bewildered audience member ring an altar boy’s bell at every Catholic reference.


After this warm, playful and engaging banter, Callinan’s story becomes darker, and there are several minutes when it seems he may not be able to haul us back into light humour – but he does. On the other side of grief is laughter, so he says.


Interestingly, a high point in the show is Callinan playing a bossy, Aussie bloke in his parents’ retirement village. His forte is portraying broad, bold characters. Perhaps a remount of the show might incorporate Callinan inhabiting large-than-life characters from mum and dad’s life, including all Kathleen’s suitors, friends and other incidental people.


by Kate Herbert


Thursday 13 April 2023

Moby Dick by Lano & Woodley REVIEW ****1/2


Melbourne International Comedy Festival

At Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne until 22 April 2023

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 15 April 2023. KH

Lano & Woodley in Moby Dick- pic by Ian Laidlaw

Moby Dick by inimitable comedy duo, Lano and Woodley (AKA Colin Lane and Frank Woodley), is a theatrical experience that is equal parts uproarious and clever. Colin and Frank's comedic chemistry and talent are obvious throughout the show, making it a must-watch for fans of their unique style of humour.


The show kicks off with a long sea shanty – Frank on guitar and Colin on tin whistle with varying degrees of success – that hilariously tells the entire story of Herman Melville's Moby Dick start to finish. Colin and Frank admit that this ruins the rest of the performance for everyone except the latecomers, who cop a lot of good-natured ridicule as they file into the front rows, setting the tone for the ensuing comedic mayhem.


What follows is chaotic and often hilarious slapstick in the pair’s idiosyncratic style that combines sharp theatrical elements, music and scrappy physical comedy. Colin takes on the role of narrator, attempting to deliver a serious version of Moby Dick, while Frank continuously sabotages his every effort with his mischievous antics.


At one point, Frank has an attack of the limericks, delivering minutes of dialogue in limerick verse. This is not only because one of the characters hails from Nantucket which rhymes with… well, you know! 


Amidst the laughter there are moments of exceptional theatricality including atmospheric, manipulated sound and dramatic elements that add depth to the show. One highlight is Colin's rendition of It Ain't Necessarily So, accompanied by his own sampled voice, showcasing his musical talents and adding another delightful detour to the storytelling.


Lano and Woodley’s Moby Dick is a bloody funny comic and theatrical experience. See it!


by Kate Herbert

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Grey Arias REVIEW 2 April 2023 ****


Devised & created by Adrienne Truscott & Le Gateau Chocolat (UK/USA)

At Malthouse Theatre, Beckett until 16 April 2023

Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars:**** (4)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly, 3MBS, on Sat 15 April 2023. KH

Le Gateau Chocolat, Adrienne Truscottin Grey Arias, photo by Tamarah Scott

Take a grab bag of explosive social issues, a plus-size, gay, black, English-Nigerian, operatic drag diva (Le Gateau Chocolat) and a cis, white, female feminist, comedian and performance artist from the US (Adrienne Truscott), then whack them into a blender with Madama Butterfly, and you have Grey Arias.


Gateau and Truscott are magnetic and charismatic in totally different ways. Their on-stage personae and differing performance styles manage to both collide and complement each other, resulting in one astounding and bizarre duo.


They are friends and award-winning artistes in their own right. Both walk a fine line between provocative and offensive, and audiences that don’t know their work may feel affronted, shocked or just plain confused. The show’s content is confrontational, transgressive and insightful while their performance style is casual and chaotic yet, paradoxically, still finely tuned and complex.


The glorious music and questionable narrative of Madama Butterfly are threaded throughout Grey Arias. The beauty of Puccini’s score becomes tainted as Gateau characterises the central character, Cho Cho San, as a 15-year-old rape victim. ‘Why do they perform it?” Truscott demands. ‘Because the music is so beautiful,’ replies Gateau, simply and unemotionally.


Their interactions are oppositional, riddled with intentionally unanswerable rhetorical questions and political ‘grey areas’. They shift between comic banter and political debate. At times, their dialogue resembles a philosophical, almost Socratic argument, with Gateau playing the teacher with Truscott the wide-eyed pupil at his knee. There is definitely a status difference between them in this performance, particularly when Gateau challenges Truscott about casual racism.


They set traps for each other; Gateau relishes seeing Truscott squirm when she crosses his blurred lines about gender, race and plenty of other issues. Meanwhile, audience members search their conscience and memory for their own instances of casual racism and other deviations from political correctness in this period of Wokeness.


There are frequent triggers for both performers and trigger warnings for the audience. They each confess personal experiences of rape, challenge each other and the audience with references to racism, both casual and overt, nudity, childhood dreams, musicals and operas (Truscott confuses the two to great hilarity).


Gateau, dressed in kimono and wild wig, entertains us with operatic arias and snippets of pop songs and, despite Gateau persistently stopping her singing, Truscott finally gets her chance to play Annie singing Tomorrow, a childhood dream of which she was cheated many decades ago.


A witty, revealing and eccentric visual element is the rear projection of the pair’s text messages to each other, that expose their burgeoning ideas and disagreements about this show and even their communications and thoughts during the performance.


This extraordinary collision of Gateau and Truscott in Grey Arias is brazen, audacious, mischievous and not to be missed.


by Kate Herbert

Saturday 1 April 2023

Kate Herbert Arts Weekly REVIEWS 3MBS Sat 1 APRIL 2023

Listen to my 3 reviews on Arts Weekly, 3MBS radio today, Sat 1 April, 2023. 

Click on link below. It's about 7 minutes. I review:
Not Like Other Ghouls by Alice Tovey (Comedy & songs, part of Comedy Festival)

WAY by Sally McKenzie (about homeless women over 55)

and briefly, Where There's a Will by Christine Croyden (Siblings war over a will.)


Where There's a Will REVIEW March 29 2023 **


Written by Christine Croyden  

At La Mama HQ until Sun April 9, 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ** (2)

This review was only published on this blog after the season of the play finished. I presented a very brief comment on Arts Weekly, 3MBS, on Sat April 1, 2023. kh

Annie Wilson-Stanford, Maureen Hartley Natasha Broadstock-pic Darren Gill

Christine Croyden’s new Australian play Where There's A Will, directed by Sara Grenfell, has a promising premise of three sisters in a dispute over their mother's will. However, the production fails to deliver on its dramatic potential.


Those who have experiences sibling rivalry over a will may identify with this story. Croyden’s writing has its greatest effect in the calmer, more dramatic moments such as
as Carla.


It aims, it seems, to be a black comedy, but it straddles a line between family drama and Keystone Cops with its manic slapstick and broad characters, with mugging (face-pulling), broad gestures and loud voices replacing genuine comic acting.


The relationship between the sisters is fractious, with Carla being the unfairly maligned and outcast older sister to Karen (Elizabeth Walley), the brusque, greedy protein shake entrepreneur, and Denise (Natasha Broadstock), the insecure, loud, whining, overeater and youngest sister.


The sisters’ dialogue is incessantly combative which leaves no room for light and shade, particularly when the dialogue is delivered with almost every line emphasised and underlined, with meaningful glances, sighs, grimaces and pauses that appear to be intended to express underlying emotion.


The acting is uneven and one of the most significant problems with the production is the grating overacting by Walley as Karen, and Broadstock as Denise. Their vocal quality is uncomfortably pushed, which makes the dialogue sound forced and unnatural; sometimes they resort to shouting. This overacting detracts from the play's intended emotional impact and makes it difficult for the audience to connect with the characters.


The actors themselves are not entirely to blame. Grenfell’s direction is awkward and unimaginative, the pacing is slow and meandering, there is a lack of dramatic tension, and the characters are not fully fleshed out so there can be little investment in their stories.


The play needs some rigorous dramaturgy to address some of its script issues. It needs a stronger dramatic structure, more nuances relationships and characters and a clear style. There is no effective climax to the plot apart from Carla lopping the agapanthus in mum’s garden with her shears, then freezing her sisters with her “Medusa stare”. This moments is not clearly staged and lacks the requisite heightened drama.


The final scene is unsatisfying, running past the play’s obvious ending and throwing away the resolution to the dispute between Carla and her the sisters in a single sentence from a now suddenly ailing Carla. This leaves the audience with a feeling of disappointment rather than resolution.


Despite having a viable storyline about warring siblings that may be familiar to some, Where There's A Will ultimately fails to deliver on its dramatic potential.


by Kate Herbert

Written by Christine Croyden
Directed by Sara Grenfell
Performed by Annie Wilson Stanford, Elizabeth Walley, Natasha Broadstock & Maureen Hartley
Set Design Christina Logan Bell
Lights Julian Adams
Sound Ryan Smedley
Stage Manager Katie Williams

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