Tuesday 30 April 2024

RBG: Of Many, One REVIEW 26 April 2024 ****1/2


Written by Suzie Miller, by Sydney Theatre Company

At Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne until 20 May 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ****1/2

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 4 May 2024. KH

Heather Mitchell  STC RBG_ Of Many, One_Image by Prudence Upton


Let me start by saying that Heather Mitchell gives a five-star performance as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Suzie Miller’s play RBG: Of Many, One.


Mitchell totally transforms both physically and vocally to inhabit the diminutive US Supreme Court judge who became a surprise icon, a meme, and much quoted hero of gender politics. Ginsburg was a judicial advocate of women’s rights who pursued specific cases in her early career as a lawyer to institute change for women. This is an exceptional, versatile and masterly solo performance from a stalwart of Australian theatre.


Not only does Mitchell play the pocket rocket, Ginsburg, but she also gleefully embodies every other character, populating the stage with a parade of recognisable or eccentric characters. Her performance is a joy to behold and reminds us what acting can be.


Miller‘s play shifts back and forward in time over decades, creating a tapestry of Ginsburg‘s life and work. We witness her anxiously awaiting President Clinton’s phone call confirming her appointment to the Supreme Court; it returns to Ginsburg’s childhood and her unstinting admiration of her mother; we see her college years, meeting and marrying her husband, having children, her early work, her arduous years working on watershed cases, and the many famous people, including the US presidents who she encountered on her journey.


Mitchell captures RBG’s world and personality as she shifts from Ginsburg as a child, to her old-age, then back to middle-age or her teenage years. She transforms in an instant, into impeccable impersonations of Clinton, Obama and even Trump who was the target of Ginsburg’s venom and her only unwise public comment that breached the boundary between the judiciary and the executive. For this she was much vilified and, personally, mortified.

Heather Mitchell  STC RBG_ Of Many, One_Image by Prudence Upton


Miller’s script is clever and clearly thoroughly researched, incorporating fact, observations and opinions into an episodic, dramatic structure that uses short vignettes, times shifts, and a multitude of characters for Mitchell to play.


It is, however, often more informational than it need be. The  play eulogises Ginsburg, presenting her with a virtually uncritical view, despite the myriad people – mainly on the right wing of US politics – who expressed significant criticism of her work, character and public profile. In Miller’s play, Ginsburg is lionised and presented as a gender politics icon, which she was. However, surely there was more to the woman and the public and private view of her.


Another minor issue is that a biography has no natural dramatic structure, so Ginsburg’s life evolves in a wave motion, with some higher points such as her appointment to the bench, but no clear climax, turning point, dramatic arc or satisfying ending, apart from her death.


These are all quibbles, because Mitchell makes this a compelling and uplifting performance.


by Kate Herbert


Director Priscilla Jackman
Designer David Fleischer
Lighting Designer Alexander Berlage
Composer & Sound Designer Paul Charlier
Assistant Director Sharon Millerchip
Voice & Accent Coach Jennifer White
Associate Designer (Tour) Emma White
Associate Sound Designer (Tour) Zac Saric

Heather Mitchell

Lucy Bell


A Midsummer Night's Dream REVIEW 25 April 2024 **1/2


Written by William Shakespeare, Bell Shakespeare

At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until 11 May 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: **1/2

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 4 May 2024. KH

Imogen Sage, Richard Pyros, Matu Ngaropo (front. Photo by Brett Boardman  
 Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a playful romantic and comical romp that is littered with magic, fairies, laughs, unrequited love and eloping lovers.

Usually, the most entertaining and hilarious scenes are those featuring the group of tradesmen known as The Mechanicals, a band of amateur actors who are rehearsing a riotously appalling performance for the Duke. Actors playing this group need to be exceptional clowns working as a cohesive ensemble to pull off these characters and their comic business.


Unfortunately, the comedy in this production, directed by Peter Evans, is overwrought and unsuccessful for the most part. The opening physical comedy is laboured and delays the actual start of The Mechanicals’ usually very funny rehearsal far too long.


There are some successful performances, particularly Matu Ngaropo as the vain, overconfident and absurd Bottom, and Richard Pyros playing Oberon, the Fairy King, as well as delightfully clownish Flute, while Imogen Sage is stately as Titania.


But there are problems: Shakespeare’s text, narrative and characters are not penetrated or given full range, the lyrical dialogue is laboured, there are some harsh vocal tones, and the joy and delight of this play is often lost. The female characters are played as modern women with rather more aggression than positive assertiveness.


The character of Puck (Ella Prince) is commonly played as mischievous, playful, enchanting, enchanted and somewhat ethereal. However, Puck in this production is weird, almost alien and uncomprehending of humans, which could be viable. But the character here is humourless, cruel, and most of all, without charm or playfulness. We need to love and enjoy Puck. We don’t!

Meanwhile, in line with this darker, more ominous tone of the production, the black-clad actors playing Titania’s fairy servants look more like looming demons than charming fairies as they mill about their mistress.


Actors playing multiple roles is common and often effective in productions of the Dream, but it seems a drawback in this instance, because some of the cast lack the versatility to carry off the multiple character transformations.


The effective design is a simple, large, tumbledown wooden frame resembling a dilapidated barn wall that provides a vehicle for entrances, exits and hidden observers including Titania, Oberon and his servant, Puck, who all perch on, and peer from the upper levels.


This is a valiant attempt at a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s Dream but, ultimately, it fails to deliver the captivating, magical quality of this romantic comedy.


by Kate Herbert

Isabel Burton, Richard Pyros, Matu Ngaropo, Imogen Sage, Ella Prince, Ahunim Abebe and Laurence Young–.Photo- Brett Boardman


Ella Prince as Puck
Ahunim Abebe as Hermia / Snug
Isabel Burton as Helena/ Starveling
Mike Howlett as Demetrius / Snout
Matu Ngaropo as Bottom / Egeus
Richard Pyros as Theseus / Oberon / Flute

Imogen Sage as Titania / Hippolyta / Quince

Laurence Young as Lysander / Mechanical


Director Peter Evans
Associate Director Julia Billington
Assistant Director Dan Graham
Set and Costume Designer Teresa Negroponte

Lighting Designer Benjamin Cisterne

Composer and Sound Designer Max Lyandvert

Fight and Intimacy Director Nigel Poulton

Voice Coach Jack Starkey-Gill
Dramaturg James Evans





Saturday 20 April 2024

KATE HERBERT Arts Weekly 3MBS Sat20April2024

In this radio spot, I talk about the writing and rehearsal of my new play, LUNG, a radio play performed live on stage at La Mama from 7 to 19 May 2024. 


Directed by Nancy Black, performed by Nikki Coghill, Geoff Wallis, Tony Rive, Carmelina Di Guglielmo and Alison Richards, with sound design by Elissa Goodrich.


The Almighty Sometimes REVIEW MTC 19 April 2024 ****


Written by Kendall Feavers, Melbourne Theatre Company

At Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, until 18 May 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: 4

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 20 April 2024. KH


Max Mckenna, Nadine Garner and Karl Richmond - image Pia Johnson

For some people, the warts-and-all exposure of mental illness in The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver, may hit too close to the bone.


The play, directly deftly by Hannah Goodwin, explores the struggle between a mother, Renee (Nadine Garner), and her 18-year-old daughter, Anna (Max McKenna) as Anna wrestles with her mental condition that swings between mania and depression. (It appears to be B polar Disorder.)


 Anna has been on powerful anti-psychotics and other mediation since she was 11 years when Renee took her to a child psychiatrist (Louisa Mignone) because of her increasingly disturbed, albeit creative and advanced writing, her erratic behaviour and apparent suicidal thoughts. 18-year-old Anna finds her 8-eyear-old self’s unsettling stories and decides to rediscover her searing creativity.


The stage become dangerous for Anna and Renee, as well as Anna’s mild-mannered, unwitting boyfriend, Oliver (Karl Richmond), when Anna decides to assert her newly acquired adulthood and independence by secretly and unsupervised, stopping her medication cold turkey. The result is a catastrophic deterioration in her mental condition.


McKenna is compelling as the volatile and mercurial Anna, as she trawls the depths of this character’s disturbing actions and her disturbed mind, finding her strength, imagination and vulnerability. Garner is sympathetic and fragile as the beleaguered, desperate Renee who fiercely protects her daughter while feeling guilty for subjecting her to such potent drugs and therapy at such as early age.


Jacob Battista’s set design is a constantly moving jigsaw of panels and cupboards that swivel and swing around the characters when Anna’s psyche is most unhinged.


The Almighty Sometimes is a challenging but dramatically satisfying production that deliver a complex mother-daughter relationship as well as a voyeuristic look into the tragic life of a young woman with a serious mental illness.



by Kate Herbert



The Almighty Sometimes
By Kendall Feaver
Cast Nadine Garner, Max McKenna, Louisa Mignone, Karl Richmond Director Hannah Goodwin
Set & Costume Designer Jacob Battista
Lighting Designer Amelia Lever-Davidson
Composer & Sound Designer Kelly Ryall
Voice & Text Coach Matt Furlani
Fight Choreographer & Movement Consultant Lyndall Grant Intimacy Coordinator Bayley Turner
Assistant Director Jennifer Sarah Dean



Saturday 6 April 2024


In this radio spot, I review Chicago, Her Majesty’s Theatre Melbourne and the truly hilarious London Assurance adapted by Richard Bean(2010) by National Theatre at Home. 

I then mention some shows in the Melbourne Comedy Festival 2024.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Chicago REVIEW 26 March 2024 ****


Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb, Book by Fred Ebb & Bob Fossey

At Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne until Sun 2 June 2024

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars:**** (4)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 6 April 2024. KH

CHICAGO-Antony Warlow & cast -2023-photo-Jeff-Busby
Chicago is one of the great, exhilarating musicals, and the more recent production featuring Anne Reinking’s choreography, based on Bob Fossey’s original dance, still catches that energised, sassy and saucy physicality that accompanies the audacious narrative about female murderers.


Of course, it does glamorise murder, making it funny, entertaining and strangely understandable when couched in the manipulated narrative spun by characters such as Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly.


These bold leading characters are played here by Zoe Ventoura as Velma and Lucy Maunder as Roxy, who are both capable singer/dancer /actors and vamp it up as these two ambitious killers seeking to be catapulted into show biz careers based on their infamy.

This may not be the best Chicago that I’ve seen. It’s a tall order to compete with Carolyn O’Connor, Chelsea Gibb and Sharon Millerchip, all of whom did Chicago over the past 20 + years.


However, the choreography, the music and the sassy songs carry this show, making it almost bullet-proof.

Cell Block Tango is a highlight with its sexy, captivating representation of six female prisoners singing their justifications for murdering partners.


The opening chorus of All That Jazz is thrilling and intensely physical. The choreography throughout the show is replete with Fossey’s bump-and-grind, hip swivelling and sexualised movement that captures the 30s cabaret and jazzy era. This musical is less about narrative and more about its dance, songs and characters.


The vocal highlight is Anthony Warlow as Billy Flynn the expert showman, defence lawyer who Warlow plays as sleek, dignified and cunning, rather than slick, showy and overly conniving. Warlow has a composure and dignity as Billy that is unlike other  actors’ more brash, brassy versions of the role. Billy manipulates facts and the jury to elevate his profile and his profit. He has no interest in the women; he is purely interested in his own success and reputation.


Peter Rowsthorn wins the hearts of the audience with his quirky, clown-like Amos Hart and Asabi Goodman as Matron ‘Mama’ Moreton, belts out the song, When You’re Good to Mama.


If you’ve not seen Chicago, get out and have a look at it because it’s effervescent and diverting and one of the great 20th century musicals.


by Kate Herbert

CHICAGO-Zoe Ventoura, Lucy Maunder 2023-photo-Jeff-Busby


CHICAGO-Cell Block Tango 2023-photo-Jeff-Busby