Wednesday 28 February 2024

Much Ado About Nothing, REVIEW Re-post of Jan 2023 production ****


Written by William Shakespeare, music by Paul Norton

Australian Shakespeare Company (ASC)

At Botanical Gardens, Southern Lawn, until 4 Feb 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert 

Stars: **** (4)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll do a radio review on Arts Weekly on 4 Feb 2023. KH

Cast-of-Much-Ado-About-Nothing 2023_Credit-Ben-Fon

Shakespeare’s plays were performed under an open sky for people who were not fancy-pants literati. Glenn Elston’s audacious, summer production of Much Ado About Nothing, set against a backdrop of lush trees in the Botanical Gardens, would have delighted the bard’s audience, so don’t expect a stodgy or even predictable version of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy.


The production opens with a comical intro by clown security guards /roadies, Dogberry (Madeleine Somers) and Verges (Antony Rive), followed by The Babes: four of the female characters sassily singing a hot rock number. Then the lead male characters, a band of returning soldiers, enter as rock band, The Loved Ones, all accompanied by on-stage guitarist, Tony Harvey.


Paul Norton’s songs are deliciously eclectic and, although they were written for a previous ASC production of Much Ado in 1998, they sound new and contemporary. Norton’s use of Shakespeare’s poetic text as lyrics or titles in these rock/pop songs is a cunning addition that adds another layer of enjoyment.


The entire cast is versatile, able to play both the comedy and drama and to perform the repertoire of songs. Nicholas Cameron is suitably seductive, arrogant, witty and charming as Benedick, playing the character as a loose limbed rock star in the style of Michael Hutchence. Anna Burgess, playing Benedick’s equally combative love match, Beatrice, captures the boldness, verbal sparring and seductiveness of the character.


Special mention must be made of Larissa Teale as the sweet, loving and tragically abandoned Hero. Teale’s warm and lovely vocal quality singing Hero’s solo ballad was a thrilling surprise.


Elston’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing is a rollicking, Shakespearean rock musical that provides another summer treat. Get a picnic and a bottle of wine and get down to the gardens before 4 Feb.

by Kate Herbert 


BENEDICK Nicholas Cameron

BEATRICE Anna Burgess

CLAUDIO Alex Cooper

DON PEDRO Hugh Sexton

DON JOHN Kevin Hopkins

BORACHIO Elizabeth Brennan

LEONATO Claire Nichols

ANTONIO Syd Brisbane

HERO Larissa Teale

MARGARET Meg McKibbin 

URSULA Olivia McLeod

DOGBERRY Madeleine Somers

VERGES Tony Rive




DIRECTOR Glenn Elston





Sunday 25 February 2024

RADIO REVIEWS Arts Weekly Sat 24 Feb 2024

Kate Herbert RADIO REVIEWS Arts Weekly 3MBS Sat24Feb2024 

In this radio spot, I review Meet Me At Dawn by Zinnie Harris at MTC and Medea,
with the exceptional Helen McCrory, available on National Theatre At Home. I chat with Nick Tolhurst and Paul Kruspe about both shows. I was pretty bloody entertaining this morning!

Click link above. 

You will also see on this blog, my written review of Medea with the link to NT Live.  


Monday 19 February 2024

Medea, National Theatre Live REVIEW 19 Feb 2024 ***** (5)


Medea adapted by Ben Power from Euripides

At  National Theatreat Home Collection - online

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars:***** (5)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 24 Feb 2024. KH

Helen McCrory in Medea -image supplied

 If you want to see a genuinely inspired performance in an exceptional production, you must see Helen McCrory in Medea by National Theatre. It is available to rent on NT Live website.


McCrory has left this mortal coil now, but her remarkable work lives on in this, and other filmed productions.


Medea has been rejected and abandoned by Jason, played with cool cruelty by Danny Sapani, her one great love for whom she betrayed her family. He is to marry a young princess and Medea is banished from Athens by the King (Dominic Rowan), while Jason demands that she leave her two young sons behind with him.


She pleads for, and is granted, one day’s grace before her exile. During these few hours, Medea, In her grief and rage and bitter desire for revenge, poisons the princess and murders her own sons to exact her vengeance on Jason.


Her Medea is passionate, compelling, volatile, complex, sympathetic and, ultimately, doomed. McCrory embodies the grief, ferocity and potent sense of betrayal of this spurned woman, plumbing the depths of despair, devotion and fierce violent jealousy.


Carrie Cracknell’s direction is deft, inventive and polished. McCrory commands the stage but she is surrounded by a chorus that dances and sings her story and her fate.


Michaela Coel’s Nurse is Medea’s champion and narrator of her achingly painful journey from queen, to deserted lover then murderer. Her emotional telling of the story foreshadows the horrors of its ending.


There is more – much more – to tell, but you must see this production to feel its potency, its clawing pain and its flawed and shattered heroine.


By: Kate Herbert.


Helen McCrory in Medea -image from video on website


Meet me at Dawn REVIEW 15 Feb 2024 ***


Written by Zinnie Harris

By Melbourne Theatre Company

At  Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until 16 March 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: *** (3)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 24 Feb, 2024. KH

L-R Sheridan Harbridge, Jing-Xuan Chan_photoPiaJohnson

In Meet Me at Dawn, two women wash up, half-drowned and disoriented, on the deserted shore of an unknown and remote location. They are partners who were on a recreational boat trip when their craft capsized forcing them to scramble desperately to apparent safety.


This two-hander, written by Scottish playwright, Zinnie Harris and directed by Kary Maudlin, charts a single day after their seafaring accident. As the sensible but anxious and troubled Robyn, Jing-Xuan Chan acts as narrator, speaking directly to the audience, establishing details of their adventurous, albeit foolhardy boat trip, the accident and their arrival, marooned, on the blue shore.


Sheridan Harbridge plays Robyn’s brittle and acerbic partner, Helen, who appears to have been injured in the boating accident but seems no worse for wear. She is feisty, frosty, witty and certain they will be found. Robyn, however, is more pessimistic and wrestles with the facts of their foolhardy boating trip and her doubts that they will be found safe and sound.


Meet Me at Dawn is the dramatic collision of delicate love story and philosophical mystery. What begins as a seemingly simple story of love and survival, slowly evolves into a mystery in which reality converges with reverie or illusion.


The truth of their predicament is fairly clear from quite early in the play, but there’ll be no spoilers here – just in case you are slow to grasp their reality. The pair struggles to understand what happened, how they survived, why the strange woman in the distance ignores them, whether they can really see a distant, inhabited shore and when they will be rescued.


This is an engaging, often funny and ultimately touching 75-minute piece that gently explores love and grief – with a nod to Orpheus and Eurydice.

 By Kate Herbert


Sheridan Harbridge- Helen

Jing-Xuan Chan - Robyn

Creative Team

Katy Maudlin - Director

Daniel Nixon -Composer & Sound Designer

Amelia Lever-Davidson -Lighting Designer

Romanie Harper -Set & Costume Designer 

Geraldine Cook-Dafner -Voice & Text Coach

Intimacy Coordinator- Isabella Vdiveloo 




Sunday 11 February 2024


KATE HERBERT Arts Weekly 3MBS SAT 10 FEB 2024 

First radio post for 2024. I review Seventeen at MTC Jan and Groundhog Day the Musical at Princess Theatre on 1 Feb.

 I also mention briefly The Choir of Man and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by ASC in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. 


(I seem to have a squashed head in the image!)

Sunday 4 February 2024

Groundhog Day, the Musical REVIEW 1 Feb 2024 *****


Book by Danny Rubin, Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin

At Princess Theatre Melbourne until 7 April 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

 Stars: ***** (5)

 This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 10 Feb 2024. KH


Andy Karl, Aust. prod Groundhog Day The Musical. Photo Jeff Busby.


Groundhog Day the Musical is an ebullient, frenetically paced, madly entertaining and funny musical adaptation of the classic 1993 movie starring Bill Murray. Every component in this production is inspired: from Tim Minchin’s songs, to Danny Rubin’s book, Matthew Warchus’s direction, the lead actors and support cast.


Andy Karl is exceptional in every way in the role of Phil Connors, the cynical and egotistical TV weatherman who resents his assignment to cover the eccentric Groundhog Day in the backwoods town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Every year, on February 2nd, these folksy townspeople celebrate the appearance of a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil. If Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.


When a blizzard travels off its expected path into Punxsutawney and closes all the highways,  Connors and his hopeful, cheerful producer, Rita (played with warmth and humour by Elise McCann), and cameraman, Larry (Kaya Byrne), are stuck in Punxsutawney overnight. Here begins Phil’s hellish reliving of that same day for months, perhaps even years. It is a splendidly absurd concept.


The repetition become comical, then desperate, fraught and nightmarish, but Phil still manages to remain a conniving jackass who abuses, cheats, ridicules and sneers at everyone, and uses his foreknowledge of the day’s events and people’s needs to take advantage of people and manipulate them, particularly Rita. 


It’s odd to think of a story advancing when it is built on the repetition of the same day. Repetition is often criticised in stage productions, apart from reprises of songs. However, in this instance, it is the genius of the show; music, lyrics, story, stage action, choreography, dialogue, character interactions and the banal detail of Phil’s repeated day all cohere to create an effervescent, thrilling episodic narrative in which we witness Phil evolve from total jerk into a genuine and caring member of this simple community. This morality tale forces Phil to repeat his 24 hours until he becomes the man he never was.


Minchin's music is celebratory and eclectic, and his songs cleverly advance the story, illuminate characters and develop relationships. His lyrics are infused with black humour as is Danny Rubin’s dialogue in this narrative that is cunningly constructed for the stage. (Song list below)


Matthew Warchus's direction is remarkable, assured and always surprising. He dovetails vibrant pageantry and effusive choreography (Lizzi Gee) with comical, dialogue-based scenes, poignant character vignettes, quirky visual design (Rob Howell) that incorporates the cunning use of a miniature landscape and a flying car chase through suspended snow-covered houses. One remarkable element is the startling illusions by Paul Kieve in which Karl, as Phil, disappears and reappears in his repeated ‘suicide’ attempts.


Go see Groundhog Day the Musical, even if you are not familiar with the movie. It’s a rollicking, fun show with heart and a simple message: be kind.


By: Kate Herbert.



Andy Karl - Phil Connors

Elise McCann - Rita Hanson

Lays Byrne - Larry

Alison Whyte- Mrs Lancaster

Tim Wright - Ned Ryerson

Ashleigh Rubenaxch - Nancy

Conor Naylon - Gus

Connor Sweeney - Ralph

Matthew Hamilton - Sheriff

Afua Adjel - Debbie


Creative Team

Danny Rubin - Book

Tim Minchin -Music and Lyrics

Matthew Warchus- Director

Rob Howell - Scenic & Costume Design

Lizzi Gee - Choreography

Christopher Nightingale - music supervision orchestrations

Hugh Vanstone  - Lighting Design

Simon Baker - Sound Design

Paul Kieve- Illusions

Andrzej Goulding- Video & Animation

Finn Campbell- additional movement

Campbell Young Assoc- Hair, Wigs & Make-up

Warwick Griffin - Assoc Director




  • There Will Be Sun - Company
  • Small Town, U.S.A. (Day 1) - Phil and Company
  • February 2nd/There Will Be Sun - Rita and Company
  • Small Town, U.S.A. (Day 2) - Phil and Company
  • Punxsutawney Phil - Company
  • February 2nd/ There Will Be Sun - Rita and Company
  • Small Town, U.S.A. (Day 3) - Phil and Company
  • Stuck - Phil and Healers
  • Nobody Cares - Gus, Ralph, Phil and Company
  • Philandering - Company
  • One Day - Rita, Phil and Company


  • Playing Nancy - Nancy
  • Hope - Phil and Company
  • Everything About You - Phil
  • If I Had My Time Again - Rita, Phil and Company
  • Everything About You (Reprise) - Phil
  • Philosopher - Phil and Company
  • Night Will Come - Ned
  • Philanthropy - Phli and Company
  • Punxsutawney Rock - Piano Teacher and Company
  • Seeing You - Phil, Rita and Company
  • Dawn - Company