Monday, 16 January 2017

Twelfth Night, ASC, Dec 2016 to March 4 2017 ****


THEATRE 
By William Shakespeare, by Australian Shakespeare Company 
Botanical Gardens Melbourne, Observatory Gate, until March 4, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars:****
Review also pulished in Herald Sun online after Jan 13 2017 & in print thereafter. KH

It’s difficult to beat a picnic under the stars on a balmy night in the Botanical Gardens while watching a lively and colourful production of one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies.

For this summer season, Glenn Elston directs a vivacious cast in a cheeky version of Twelfth Night on an outdoor stage, with plenty of family-friendly slapstick, live music, Shakespearean song and a touch of philosophy, all set during the twelve days of the traditional Christmas period.

All the elements of Shakespeare’s play are present: mistaken identities, cross-dressing, practical jokes, wicked humour, interrupted romance and happy endings.

However, Elston takes some licence with Shakespeare’s dialogue and characters, peppering the show with topical gags, swapping the gender of two characters and opening the play with a merry, rewritten festive song that starts, ‘On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me – a shipwreck on the high seas.’
After the aforementioned wreck separates Viola (Elizabeth Brennan) from her twin brother, Sebastian (James Coley), she disguises herself as Cesario, boy-servant to Duke Orsino (Charlie Sturgeon). Viola then falls in love with Orsino who adores the grieving Countess Olivia (Syd Zigier) who, in turn, falls head over heels for Cesario, the boy-girl. Get it?

The real hilarity in this production comes from the madcap antics of Kevin Hopkins as the boozing, partying, wild-haired Sir Toby Belch, and the dotty Anthony Rive as his foppish, idiotic but moneyed comrade in drunken debauchery, Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Their clownish routine that includes ducking and diving (literally, in Rive’s case) and bobbing up and down like sideshow clown-heads, is a fine example of classic physical comedy, and Claire Nicholls as feisty Maria, and Louisa Fitzhardinge as Fabian, complete the comic quartet.

A show highlight is Mark Dickinson as Feste, Olivia’s jester, who comments on the chaotic, comic action and love triangles with glib and witty jests, riddles and songs (music by Paul Norton).

Dickinson captures Feste’s wry, melancholy wisdom and, with his rich voice, fine guitar playing and compelling presence, delivers Shakespeare’s famous songs that include a country music influenced version of O Mistress Mine and the romantic lament, Feste’s Song (‘With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain’).

Hugh Sexton is suitably pompous, sneering and posturing as Olivia’s ambitious steward, Malvolio, who is the butt of a cruel practical joke by Maria, Sir Toby and their cronies.

Elston’s effervescent, outdoor production contains all the requisite romantic and comic chaos, musical diversions, celebratory drunkenness, mischievous humour and outrageous revelry expected of the festive season – and you get to eat snacks and sip wine!

By Kate Herbert


 Cast
Elizabeth Brennan - Viola
Hugh Sexton - Malvolio
Claire Nicholls - Maria
Syd Zigier - Olivia
Charlie Sturgeon -Duke Orsino
Mark Dickinson- Feste
Kevin Hopkins - Sir Toby Belch
Si Andrew Aguecheek - Anthony Rive
James Coley Sebastian (twin)
Louisa Fitzhardinge - Fabian
Bryony Hindley - Antonia (sailor was Antonio)

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Wind in the Willows, ASC, Dec 2016 to Jan 28 2017 ****


CHILDREN’S THEATRE 
Adapted by Glenn Elston from the book by Kenneth Grahame, by Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Melbourne, until Jan 28, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars:****

 Review also published in Herald Sun online & in print. KH

Could The Wind in the Willows be the longest running show in Melbourne? This summer marks 30 years since Glenn Elston first staged, in our Botanical Gardens, his charming adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s book.

This vivacious outdoor show is a family event not only for the audience, but for the production company too; Otis Elston, Glenn Elston’s son who played Portly Otter when a child, now directs the beguiling production. Somebody must be cloning Elstons!

Otis Elston’s production emphasises the children’s participation in this tale of mateship and adventure, and the enthusiastic kids howl at the clownish slapstick and bad jokes then go on a dangerous adventure with the Rat Pack and Badger Patrol to rescue little, lost Portly the Otter (Amon Prete) from the Wild Wood.

Their participation includes not only a rescue mission but also singing along to ‘Waggle your ears, wiggle your nose,’ joining the chorus of ‘Quack quack quackady-quack’ in the Ducks’ Ditty, and shouting warnings of ‘He’s behind you!’

Paul Morris once again provides music on mandolin and plays the hilariously sneaky, sleazy and villainous Weasel who lays siege to Toad Hall with his weaselly relatives and giant water pistols filled with ‘weasel wee’.

This year, Chris Southall takes over the role of Head Chief Rabbit who acts as host, leading the children in song, playing guitar and joining Morris to entertain the parents with wittily reworded pop songs.

Wearing garish green and pink puffy breeches as Mr. Toad, Oliver Byng is gleefully flamboyant, conceited and entitled, behaving like a spoilt, British upper-class twit obsessed with every new fad from canoeing to motorcars.

Leigh Piper is playful as the sensible river-dwelling Rat who loves ‘messing about in boats’, while Andrew Hondromatidis has a fine singing voice as Otter and shows his versatility by also playing the smug Policeman who loves arresting Toad, and a doddering, old Judge.

Doru Surcel plays the pompous, long-winded Badger whose black and white make-up – according to Weasel – makes him look like a renegade from Kiss or, worse, a Collingwood supporter, while Katherine Pearson plays Mole, the obsessive cleaner, with a blend of sprightliness and timidity.

Willows is a dynamic and captivating show for littlies and biggies on a summer’s day – but hide your picnic hamper to avoid sly Weasel and hungry Head Chief Rabbit nicking your sangers and wine.

By Kate Herbert

Cast
Mr Toad - Oliver Byng
Mole - Katherine Pearson
Otter - Andrew John Hondromatidis
Head Chief Rabbit - Chris Southall
Badger - Doru Surcel
Ratty - Leigh Piper
Weasel - Paul Morris
Portly - Amon Prete



Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Gathering, Nov 30, 2016 **1/2


MUSICAL THEATRE
Book, Music & Lyrics by Will Hannagan & Belinda Jenkin, by Vic Theatre Company
fortyfivedownstairs, until Dec 11, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2

Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs Dec 1, 2016 & later in print. KH
Shannen Alyce Quan, Hannah Sullivan McInerney, Joel Granger, Daniel Cosgrove, Daniel Assetta, Olivia Charalambous -Photo, James Terry
We need and want to see and support new Australian musicals and The Gathering, by Will Hannagan and Belinda Jenkin, has some commendable musical composition, although the book and lyrics are far less successful.

New musicals that are produced on the professional stage must necessarily be compared with more mature musical works, which means that they do not always receive glowing reviews, even when we wish them well in their development.

Hannagan and Jenkin’s music has charm and variety and is certainly the strongest element in the show, and the assured, five-piece band under musical director, Daniel Puckey, plays the score with freshness and energy.

The tunes range in style from solo ballads such as Sweet December Feelings, to rousing five-part harmonies like Between These Walls and A Different Kind of Love, and perky, musical theatre-style choruses such as You Didn’t Prepare Us For This or Never Ever.

After his unexplained, five-year absence, Tom (Joel Granger), a nervous young man in his early twenties, invites his old, school friends and his foster-sister, Kelly (Shannen Alyce Quan), to a party – the titular gathering – in the spooky, crumbling, outer suburban house that he wants them all to come and share with him.

Old conflicts and resentments surface between the friends and are complicated when the creaking and cracking of the old house suggests that it may be haunted by the previous inhabitant.

The narrative is unnecessarily complicated and not very engaging, while the dialogue is predictable, the characters are two-dimensional, juvenile and not very likable, and the relationships are under-developed.

The songs attempt to illuminate the inner life of the characters and advance the story, but the lyrics are corny, and the rhymes are laboured and sometimes excruciating.

The cast of six is strongest when singing, and Chris Parker keeps his direction simple, focussing on the tunes and harmonies that are the most effective component of the production.

Quan’s voice has a clear, bright tone in the nostalgic Sweet December Feelings, and she plays Kelly with abrasiveness mixed with vulnerability, while Granger captures Tom’s neediness and anxiety when singing Part of the Gang and Whispers in These Walls.

Hannah Sullivan McInerney play Daisy, the hippy, and has vocal strength singing the poignant Hair So Long, while Daniel Cosgrove is her blokey and aggrieved ex-boyfriend, Joe.

Daniel Assetta injects playfulness and energy as Luke, Kelly’s party-boy pal, while Olivia Charalambous provides comic relief as clumsy Mia, who admits her crush on Tom in their duet, If Ever I Would Run.

Although many of the songs have successful tunes and harmonies, The Gathering needs further development or a complete rewrite of the story, dialogue, lyrics and characters.

By Kate Herbert 

Cast 
Joel Granger -Tom
Olivia Charalambous -Mia
Daniel Cosgrove   -Joe
Hannah Sullivan McInerney  - Daisy
Shannen Alyce Quan - Kelly
 Daniel Assetta - Luke

Songs
Between These Walls
Sweet December Feelings
Part of the Gang
Haunted
I Won’t Break
Never Ever
Whisper in these Walls
You Didn’t Prepare Us For This
Hair So Long
I Miss Us
If Ever I Would Run
A Different Kind of Love
One World
 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Last Five Years, Nov 26, 2016 ****


MUSICAL THEATRE  
Written & composed by Jason Robert Brown, by Vic Theatre Company
fortyfivedownstairs, until Dec 11, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sat Nov 26, 2016
Stars:**** 
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print. on Tues Nov 29, 2016 & later online. KH
 Verity Hunt-Ballard & Josh Piterman
Be warned! If you are feeling vulnerable about love lost, then this intimate and poignant musical about the end of a marriage, The Last Five Years, may send you into a spiral of sadness or regret.

American writer and composer, Jason Robert Brown, based this two-hander on his own crumbling marriage – a choice that led to Brown’s ex-wife threatening to sue him for the similarity of the story to their own relationship.

The inimitable and accomplished Verity Hunt-Ballard plays Cathy Hiatt, a 23-year old, aspiring actor who is under-confident, under-achieving and, ultimately, unsuccessful.

Josh Piterman plays Cathy’s boyfriend-then-husband, Jamie Wellerstein, who is an ambitious, emerging novelist whose writing career rockets to success during the five years of his relationship with Cathy.

Brown’s complex, compelling and original structure portrays Cathy’s story running backwards from the lonely, agonising end of the marriage to its bright-eyed beginning five years earlier, while Jamie’s chronology travels forward from their first meeting to his cruel departure from the marriage five years later.

In Chris Parker’s slick, seamless and assured production, we witness both characters at their best and worst, and our sympathies bounce from one character to the other as they both reveal their virtues, flaws, dreams and vulnerabilities.

Played by a tight, off-stage band (musical director, Daniel Puckey), Brown’s songs are musically rich and varied in style, and the versatile Hunt-Ballard does them justice with her thrilling voice, fine vibrato, excellent vocal control and bright timbre.

Her opening rendition of Still Hurting is heart wrenching, See I'm Smiling is a moving glimpse of Cathy’s attempt to stay positive when Jamie is inattentive and she is jealous, while Summer in Ohio is a whimsical song and dance and Cathy’s Audition Sequence is a comical glance at the brutal audition circuit.

As Jamie, Josh Piterman uses his raunchy, bold voice in the upbeat, Shiksa Goddess, a song that celebrates his new non-Jewish girlfriend, a more sensitive tone when Jamie pledges his support for Cathy’s acting endeavours in If I Didn't Believe in You, and during Nobody Needs to Know, when Jamie reveals his secret affair.

Cathy and Jamie’s timelines coincide only once, in the romantic duet, The Next Ten Minutes, when Jamie proposes to Cathy and they sing sweetly about their joyful future together.

The final scene poignantly overlaps two songs when Jamie packs his bags to leave, singing I Could Never Rescue You, while younger, hopeful Cathy sings Goodbye Until Tomorrow, as she waves goodbye to her beloved Jamie at the beginning of their relationship, expecting him to return the next day.

The Last Five Years is a tender, passionate and heart-breaking story with a marvellous repertoire of songs performed by two distinguished musical theatre performers.

By Kate Herbert 

Director, Chris Parker 
Musical director, Daniel Puckey
Set design Daniel Harvey

Songs 
Still Hurting - Cathy
Shiksa Goddess - Jamie
See I'm Smiling - Cathy
Moving Too Fast - Jamie
I'm A Part of That- Cathy
The Schmuel Song - Jamie
A Summer in Ohio - Cathy
The Next Ten Minutes" - Jamie & Cathy
A Miracle Would Happen/When You Come Home to Me - Jamie/Cathy
Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence - Cathy
If I Didn't Believe in You - Jamie
I Can Do Better Than That - Cathy
Nobody Needs to Know - Jamie
Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You - Jamie & Cathy
 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Reefer Madness: The Musical, Nov 25, 2016 ***


MUSICAL THEATRE
Book and music by Dan Studney & Kevin Murphy, produced by RL Productions
Chapel off Chapel, until Dec 4, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Fri Nov 25, 2016
Stars: *** 
Review published in Herald Sun Arts online on Tuesday Nov 29, 2016 & later in print. KH
Grace O’Donnell-Clancey  & Ben Adams, pic Nicole Risley
 If you’ve never seen the 1936 American propaganda film, Reefer Madness, find it, then marvel at its scare tactics that suggested marijuana was a far worse threat to the USA than heroin or cocaine.

The film re-emerged as a cult classic in the 1970s counter-culture then, in 1999, Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy wrote Reefer Madness: The Musical, a broad parody that pushes the scaremongering into total absurdity.

In Stephen Wheat’s raucous production, James Cutler is the highlight as the smugly conservative, bespectacled and suit-clad Lecturer who preaches to an audience of high school parents about the ways marijuana leads to addiction, debauchery, murder – and the evils of jazz music!

Standing in a school hall, this smarmy Lecturer relates a morality tale about clean-living, 16-year old Jimmy Harper (Ben Adams) who is lured into the grimy Reefer Den where he turns from ‘good egg’ to ‘bad apple’ when he gets addicted to Mary-Jane/marijuana which leads to depravity.

Adams successfully captures Jimmy’s downward spiral from cheerful, awkward schoolboy to a demented, wild-eyed addict who careers from one disaster to another.

Grace O’Donnell-Clancey as Jimmy’s girlfriend, Mary Lane, is the epitome of the sweetie-pie, girl-next-door with her blonde curls and glistering white smile, although her singing lacks some vocal control.

The decadent scenes in the Reefer Den are entertaining, and Rosa McCarty as Mae, the den madam, is particularly funny with her spot-on comic timing, intentional over-acting and rich voice when she sings The Stuff, Mae’s lament about addiction.

Studney and Murphy’s songs are not particularly memorable or original, but the reincorporation of the chanted phrase, ‘Reefer madness’, from the title song, certainly sticks in the memory.

Wheat’s production emphasises the comic book style by using cartoon cut out props (design by Simon Coleman) and broad caricatures, and underlines the morality lecture style with placards bearing slogans such as ‘Marijuana makes you sell your baby’.

The absurdity ratchets up with songs such as The Orgy in the Reefer Den, the appearance of Jesus singing from the cross in Listen to Jesus, Jimmy, and The Brownie Song, in which Jimmy is re-addicted with a drug-filled cookie.

Playing both zombie addicts and prim community members, the youthful chorus performs Yvette Lee’s energetic choreography with gusto and the unseen, four-piece band is tight under David Wisken’s musical direction.

However, the stage action is relentlessly frenetic, the acting is uneven and the performances often involve too much shouting that diminishes the comedy.

Reefer Madness is a bit of rollicking fun with some ridiculous parody and singable songs, but it cannot compare to the bizarre, unintentional comedy of that original, propaganda movie that was supposed to scare the pants off American parents.

Kate Herbert
Cast of Reefer Madness, pic Nicole Risley
James Cutler as Lecturer
Ben Adams as Jimmy Harper
Grace O’Donnell Clancy as Mary Lane
Rosa McCarty as Mae
Jared Bryan, Phoebe Coupe, Stephen McDowell, Priscilla Stavrou, Ed Deganos, Samantha Bruzzese, Seth Drury, Ashlee Noble, Daniel Ridolfi, Tess Branchflower & Alex Thompson.
 

Friday, 25 November 2016

Blaque Showgirls Nov 16, 2016 **


THEATRE 
By Nakkiah Lui, Malthouse Theatre
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, until Dec 4, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars**
 Review also published in Herald Sun online on Thurs Nov 17, 2016, and later in print. KH
Bessie Holland & Elaine Crombie - photo Pia Johnson 
Blaque Showgirls does include some biting, political satire, but it is scattered among too many cheap gags and poor puns to make a satisfying comedy.


Written by Nakkiah Lui, a writer-performer on Black Comedy, the ABC sketch comedy show, Blaque Showgirls follows the journey of Sarah Jane Jones, AKA Ginny (Bessie Holland), a young, fair-skinned, indigenous woman who lives in a country town called Chitole. (Yes, say it aloud and you’ll get the bad pun.)

Ginny longs to get in touch with her indigenous roots and to be, as was her late mother, a Blaque Showgirl, exotic dancer in glitzy Brisvegas.

Of course, it all goes pear-shaped for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that Ginny can’t dance, she’s does not have a Confirmation of Aboriginality certificate – at first – and she is loathed by her Blaque Showgirl idol, Chandon Connors (Elaine Crombie).

Some occasional, smart dialogue satirises politically correct language about race and culture, plays irreverently on the names of indigenous tribes, and parodies those who would take advantage by pretending to be aboriginal.

Unfortunately, these political and topical references are rare gems amongst far too much tacky and juvenile humour, cheap vulgarity and crude language passing for comedy, an example of the last being the name of the nearby, Asian-themed strip club called Sticky Kum Den. (Say that aloud, too.)

The script lacks substance and the gags are cheap, poorly written and often repetitive or embarrassing, and the production, looks like a bad high school comedy revue with amateurish direction (Sarah Giles), poor comic timing and unimaginative physical comedy.

Blaque Showgirls trades on jokes about racial stereotypes that no white performer would be permitted to use, including many jibes about the little, Asian girl, Molly (Emi Canavan) with a strong accent who works in the Kum Den where they perform the Chopstick Striptease.

The brief appearances of Aunty Mavis (Crombie) are entertaining, and one funny and more professional moment is the start of the topless Emu Dance in the nightclub when Ginny, Chandon and a third girl (Guy Simon) appear in gorgeous, feathered emu costumes (Eugyeene Teh) and compete for the limelight.

The nightclub stage design (Eugyeene Teh) provides a simple and compact proscenium stage and the incorporation of Australian rock classics, such Treaty, Solid Rock and Horses, is a highlight.

This production of Blaque Showgirls lacks finesse, is not transgressive or clever political satire and is, ultimately, very unsatisfying comedy.

By Kate Herbert

Monday, 21 November 2016

Uncle Vanya, Nov 20, 2016 ***1/2


THEATRE
Written by Anton Chekhov, adapted by Annie Baker, by Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Red Stitch Actors Theatre, until Dec 17, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sun Nov 20, 2016
Stars: ***1/2
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon Nov 21, 2016 (or Nov 22), & later in print. KH

Nadia Tass’s production of Uncle Vanya begins with whimsy and farce tinged with cynicism but, as these late 19th century Russian characters confront the futility of their lives, the mood collapses into despair and grim pessimism.

Tass’s direction of Annie Baker’s modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play focuses on the relationships and has a moody, languorous quality that matches the existential crises that all of the characters face during the play.

The first act is very funny, highlighting the absurdity of their circumstances when the old professor, Serebryakov (Kristof Kaczmarek), returns with his young, beautiful wife, Yelena (Rosie Lockhart), to the family estate, where he upends everyone’s lives with his demands for breakfast at noon and supper at 2am.

David Whiteley captures Vanya’s resentment, frustration and escalating despair as he shifts inexorably from sarcastic criticism of their increasingly slothful lives, to hopeless infatuation with Yelena and, finally, to outrage and fury when Serebryakov announces he will sell the estate.

Ben Prendergast portrays Dr. Astrov, Vanya’s friend and companion-in-vodka, with a mounting wildness that arises from Astrov’s boozing and his own obsession with the lovely but indolent Yelena.

Chekhov wrote ensemble plays and this cast works as a unit to create this lethargic and depressing world of gentry who have lost any sense of purpose and who scratch at each other’s weaknesses until they bleed.

Eva Seymour is an earnest, albeit relentlessly angst-ridden Sonya, Lockhart is a suitably languid and presumptuous Yelena, and Kaczmarek is successfully blustering, vain and insensitive as Serebryakov.

Marta Kaczmarek is a delight playing Marina, the wily, old Nanny who wrangles the adults as if they were still recalcitrant children, while Justin Hosking makes poor, ignored Waffles a sympathetic character, and Olga Makeeva plays an elegant elderly, Maria.

Chekhov’s plays broke the theatrical traditions of the 19th century with their ‘scenes from country life’ and their reflection of real life and real people in real time doing and saying dull and ordinary things.

Sitting through nearly three hours of Chekhov can be excruciating, witnessing these characters drink tea and vodka, talk about trees and struggle with their depression.

However, Tass’s production, although uneven, has enough variety of flavour and detail in tone and delivery to keep an audience interested.

By Kate Herbert

Set & Costume Sophie Woodward
Lighting David Parker
Assistant Lighting Clare Springett
Composition & Sound Daniel Nixon
Production Manager Sara Grayson
Stage Manager Hannah Bullen
Assistant Stage Manager Arthur Giamalidis


Animal, Nov 18, 2016 ***1/2

THEATRE
Created by Susie Dee, Kate Sherman & Nicci Wilkes, by inFlux

Theatre Works, until Nov 27, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon Nov 21, 2016 and later in print. KH
Kate Sherman & Nicci Wilkes
In a wordless, soundless, violent world, two girls struggle to survive the horrors of their circumstances.


Animal, a confronting piece of physical theatre created by director, Susie Dee, with performers, Nicci Wilkes and Kate Sherman, investigates through movement the violence perpetrated against women.

The performance is intensely visceral and has no spoken dialogue, although words and phrases appear projected on a rear screen and the wild appearance and violent actions of the two actors speak volumes.

Although a brief, opening video of a farmhouse suggests that the two girls live in an isolated, rural location, the show has no linear narrative but uses a visually compelling, abstract style that is precisely choreographed, although its obtuseness sometimes leaves the intention of the piece unclear.

Wilkes and Sherman appear to be young sisters, dressed in filthy, old-fashioned and childish dresses that they swap as if their identities are mutable and transferable.

They are trapped inside a dim, grey, prison-like warehouse (Designed by Marg Horwell) where they climb and crawl like animals over stacked packing crates and a floor littered with debris.

Their urgent actions teeter on the edge of rough play and outright violence as they run in circles, chasing and being chased, one moment being the pursuer and the next the pursued.

They communicate through fear and frenetic movement, blindfold each other, taunt and tease, punch each other mercilessly or harm themselves, wrestle playfully or attack like dogs biting, rolling and tearing at each other.

One strangely moving element is that the girls express very little emotion, except when they are separated when panic and fear kick in, and their tough composure collapses.

In a poignant, repeated scene, the girls perform a coy, girlish dance duet in which they lift their skirts to reveal their over-sized, un-sexy panties; a dance that we fear is performed for a predatory man whose presence threatens then constantly.

The most disturbing scenes are those in which the girls transform their dance into a provocative, sexualised, adult stripper’s routine that leads to what we can only assume to be rape.

Although their communication is wordless, over-sized projections of phrases comment cryptically on their predicament: ‘Born in this skin’ and ‘Mercy be upon this breath.’ (Projected words by Angus Cerini.)

Interrupting their silence is an intermittent, frightening roaring (Soundscape by Kelly Ryall) that sounds like huge trucks passing on a highway and leaves the audience’s nerves jangled.

The frenetic and chaotic activity escalates throughout the 50-minute show, but the final, triumphant scene – one that suggests freedom and overcoming adversity – seems disconnected from the direction of the preceding violence and makes an unsatisfying ending.

Animal is an accomplished and fearless piece that employs primal physicality and distressing imagery to raise issues about violence against women.

By Kate Herbert