Sunday, 30 November 1997

Cabaret Chat Noir, Nov 30, 1997


Cabaret Chat Noir
Up Top Cocktail Bar 123 Russell St. 8pm Sunday Nov 30, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert on No 30, 1997

Melbourne has a tradition of reviving Berlin and Parisian cabaret and the latest update is Cabaret Chat Noir, (Black Cat) named after the first paris venue which opened in 1881.

The Flying Trapeze and Last Laugh, in the late 70's-early 80's were host to many artists working in the Berliner tradition including Cabaret Conspiracy from Sydney, Henry Maas, Ruth Shonheimer and Howard Stanley.

Chat Noir is hosted by the laconic, Marlene-like Sarah Vincent. The varied and very entertaining program comprises original or adapted political songs, readings of brooding stories or comic political observations and a peppering of puppetry and a few other quirky pieces.

The venue and crowd are as important as the content in this type of work. The Up Top Cocktail Bar is decorated with kitch 50's prints of Sophia Loren look-alikes in exotic locations. It croons 50's lounge music and accommodates a cool 20 something clientele. Very funky!

Although, with twenty acts and two intervals, the show is too long, it is a strong program. Vincent's dry, witty and ultra relaxed banter links the pieces happily and her 'scissor stories', which are cut-up versions of Mills and Boons a' la Ern Malley, are hilariously bizarre.

The sexy Soubrettes duo (Tania Kyriakou & Alice Carter), accompanied by a three-piece band, sing tuneful songs with lyrics providing a barbed social commentary.

Their songs include an attack on Kennett as 'Leader of the Pack' and a satire of anti-feminism, 'I want to be a real woman'. One highlight was the clever and poignant adaptation of 'Whenever I feel afraid.. I whistle a happy tune,' which challenges the sweetness of the song by continuing 'and no-one will suspect I've been raped.'

Jamie Silver postulates that, given the dire state of our world, aliens landing in Bourke Street would ask, 'What the... do you people think you're doing down here?' Margaret Bearman's rich-chocolate prose, about a middle-aged woman's sexual encounter with a teenager, is dark and disturbing.

There is a silent bouffon waiter (Christian Bagin) who flits on and off stage, a dissatistifed cafe-hopping torch song singer (Genevieve Messenger) and a very stylish and novel adult shadow puppet piece about a woman looking for love.

Director, Kyriakou, a graduating student of the VCA, has created a colourful and entertaining evening. Some acts are less successful than others and the structure needs some balancing of short and long pieces but it really is a great night Up Top.

KATE HERBERT

Saturday, 29 November 1997

Patsy Cline by Bernadette Robinson, Nov 29, 1997


Patsy Cline: Her Songs, Her Story, by Bernadette Robinson
At Universal Theatre in Nov 1997, no closing date
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around 28 Nov, 1997

Patsy Cline didn't have much luck outside of her Country and Western career. She married young, divorced, married again to a philanderer and spendthrift.

Her first agent managed to keep her poor. A car accident almost killed her. Finally she died in a plane crash. Light planes and bad weather are ill portents for singing stars.

Bernadette Robinson embodies Patsy Cline to a tee. She has the twitchy movements, the chintzy dresses and the smarmy, seductive C & W smile - and she has the voice. Her performance is relaxed and engaging as she strolls about the stage changing costumes as often as she changes songs.

The show, written by Bernadette and Ann Robinson and Paul Noonan, is cleverly constructed to provide sufficient biographical detail without becoming informational. It all begins at that fateful moment and Patsy remembers, 'All I ever wanted was to be a star.'

Robinson moves from Patsy's Tennessee childhood dreams of fame to her working in a Winchester drug store, her winning of talent contests, first radio appearance and first record contract with Decca.

The first half is peppered with snatches of songs and some complete tunes as well as lots of laconic humour about life’s little trials. After interval and after her car accident, Patsy/Bernadette gives a humdinger of a concert just before she gets on that plane to see her children and her Maker.

Some of Cline’s top hits are included: Crazy, I Fall to Pieces, Your Cheatin' Heart and Walkin' After Midnight. Considering she died 35 years ago at the age of 30, she made her mark and has become a country music icon after death. The gay community loves her.

Robinson is supported by musical director, Mark Jones, on piano with a versatile band (Quentin Frayne, Ed Bates, Steve Purcell) providing authentic backing music and vocals in the style of the Jordanaires. The design by Louise McCarthy and lighting by Adrian Cherubin successfully support the piece.

Director Kaarin Fairfax has kept the pace moving on stage with some slick and cunning direction that enables one woman to fill the stage for two hours. But the accolades must go to the silver-voiced Robinson and her infamous impersonation skills.  As we saw in her hit show 'You Might as Well Live' which recreated 20 tragic songstresses, she can transform into anybody.
.
Kate Herbert
[1]˘






˜Patsy Cline: Her Songs, Her Storyˇ

˜ Bernadette Robinson Universal Theatre ˇ
         ˜(ˇ
˜no closing date)
ˇ


˜
  Patsy Cline didn't have much luck outside of her Country and Western career. She married young, divorced, married again to a philanderer and spendthrift. Her first agent managed to keep her poor. A car accident almost killed her. Finally she died in a plane crash. Light planes and bad weather are ill-portents for singing stars.

Bernadette Robinson embodies Patsy Cline to a tee. She has the twitchy movements, the chintzy dresses and the smarmy, seductive C & W smile - and she has the voice. Her performance is relaxed and engaging as she strolls about the stage changing costumes as often as she changes songs.

Her performance is relaxed and engaging as she strolls about the stage changing costumes as often as she changes songs.

Some of her top hits are included: Crazy, I Fall to Pieces, Your Cheatin' Heart and Walkin' After Midnight. Considering she died 35 years ago at the age of 30,  she made her mark and has become a country music icon after death. The gay community loves her.

Robinson is supported by musical director, Mark Jones, on piano with a versatile band (Quentin Frayne, Ed Bates, Steve Purcell) providing authentic backing music and vocals in the style of the Jordanaires. The design by Louise McCarthy and lighting by Adrian Cherubin successfully support the piece.

Director Kaarin Fairfax has kept the pace moving on stage with some slick and cunning direction that enables one woman to fill the stage for two hours. But the accolades must go to the silver-voiced Robinson and her infamous impersonation skills.  As we saw in her hit show 'You Might as Well Live' which recreated 20 tragic songstresses, she can transform into anybody.

Kate Herbert

Thursday, 27 November 1997


Maelstrom by Chris Dickins
At Beckett Theatre, Malthouse
By Ballarat University until Nov 29, 1997
Review by Kate Herbert around 26 Nov 1997

"Don't stand in my shadow, Don't stare in my face", is the imperative of the aggressive and disenfranchised youth of Chris Dickins play, Maelstrom.

I'd be inclined to heed them. They're scary people.

The graduating year of Ballarat University Performing Arts with director Peter Tulloch, play fourteen characters in a socio-political narrative which resonates with the darker outcomes of the 'sell, sell sell', behaviour of the Victorian government.

A condemned property with a fabulous view of the Casino complex is occupied by a tribe of angry squatters under the near-fascist leadership of a very disturbed but charismatic young man, J. J. Rider. Dickins reveals all their fraught stories but the central narrative deals with the siege on the house that has a bloody end.

Dickins plot confronts betrayal, abandonment, abuse and suicide. The young people try, in the face of their shattered lives and impending disaster, to survive but even they know they are fighting a lost battle.

The project is the third piece commissioned by Ballarat from Dickins and is a change in tone from his usual work that is lyrical and poetic. Maelstrom is a brittle and agitating piece that retains his signature poetic text but is generally riding the boundaries of negativity. It opens with a feisty rap chorus number that really kicks.

The young actors are committed and make a good ensemble but many cannot balance the verse form with the rough-as-guts dialogue. Although it is obviously written as a vehicle to showcase all fourteen performers, the series of monologues and the relentless rage become tiring and the story loses its focus by trying to cover too incorporate too many threads. Some ruthless editing and a concentration on J.J., his father and his dear friend Harlan, might have made a more successful script.

There is some evocative lighting designed by Bernadette Haldane, and an effective grunge set design. However, too many clumsy scene changes were a distraction. Most of the actors had trouble finding the emotional truth in the text and ended up yelling and over-stating. There was one exceptional performance from Melissa Casey who not only found the colour and texture in her distressed character but she
surprised us with a great jazz voice.

KATE HERBERT

Wednesday, 26 November 1997

The Park by Steve Wheat, Nov 26, 1997


The Park by Steve Wheat
VCA Drama Studio until Dec 6, 1997

It is such a joy to see a play that confronts grief without indulging in melodramatics. 

Steve Wheat's play, The Park, has a warmth and wry humour which, combined with his sensitive portrayal of four different stories of loss, leaves us with the impression that life insists on running on - even if the tap is at a dribble.

Jason and Julia, (Tom Healy, Jane Longhurst) who run the groovy Le Park cafe, are to be married. Working in their cafe are their chef, Jason's dear old lesbian pal Tina (Liz Welch), Lucy, a young mum (Jo Keen) and Michael (Grant Moulday), their gay friend who arrives from England to unntentionally upset the wedding apple cart.

Wheat has skilfully woven several other stories into the fabric that glows with the muted colours of grief and lightness. Two older couples (John Flaus, Helen Tripp, Joan Murray, Terry Kenwrick) attempt to grieve for the death of their sons. Gabrielle (Emma Strand), girlfriend of one of the dead men, searches for his echo in a man who may have been recipient of his heart (Ernie Gray).

He uses the park, which is beautifully realised in Marc McTyre's set, as the focal location for meetings, revelations, tragedies, romance and farewells. The whole picture is an intricate emotional landscape depicting the inner lives of this collection of characters. We want to know their stories and soak up each new scrap of information.

Aubrey Mellor's subtle and cunningly simple direction does not tamper with the text but allows it to speak and the actors to explore the dynamics of silence as well as dialogue. The stillness is as evocative as the voice.

Mellor has assembled an exceptional cast who have all donated their time to the project. Welch as Tina balances humour with poignancy, Keen vibrates with pain and Flaus's despair was palpable.

Wheat, whose play Cloudburst has had several successful seasons, has written this larger piece for his graduating production. It has his characteristic laconic observations about life and his lyrical writing interspersed with pithy, witty dialogue. It is never glib. His musings on pain and loss are always truthful, poignant and provocative.

The play is 'delicate', just as one character observes. It has a sweet melancholic quality that resonates in the final fireworks display. It's such a little time we have together and life goes on - not with a bang but a squib.

KATE HERBERT

Sunday, 23 November 1997

Pope Joan by Women's Circus, Nov 23, 1997


Pope Joan
By Women's Circus
At Russell St. Police Garage until Dec 6, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around Nov 22, 1997

If you were a convent gal you will understand how uproariously funny it is seeing 20 nuns teetering on another nun's bottom or upside down, skirt around her ears.

Such is the display of antics in the Women's Circus new production, Pope Joan. The remarkable new Artistic Director, Sarah Cathcart, has developed, through research, a physically based show which explores women and the Catholic religion: women as nuns, convent schoolgirls, witches and - yes - as Pope.

Joan, a member of the Irish Brigidine order of nuns, was incarcerated for questioning the Bishop's edict that women must not celebrate the Eucharist or dance in the church because they are not made in the image of Christ: i.e. 'a bearded Jewish fisherman'.

Joan escaped to Athens then Rome with her lover, a monk. She became a scholar and, in her male guise, the favoured successor to Pope Leo in 853 AD. Unfortunately, the quirky tale goes, she gave birth outside the Colosseum and was stoned to death by angry mob of female-pope-haters.

Cathcart has adapted her own extraordinary performance style to create a deliciously witty and cunningly simple structure which highlights the range of skills of this enormous cast of amateur acrobats of all shapes, sizes and ages. There is a cohesion in this production which has been absent from previous Women's Circus shows. Joan's story is cleverly interwoven with anecdotes from a novitiate nun from the 1950's and from schoolgirls in a Wagga Wagga convent.

The delightful visuals and physical skills create a parallel narrative to the spoken personal stories. Groups of women provide symbolic action and imagery. One of the most powerful scenes depicted the burning of witches as tortured action on trapeze finishing with women dangling by their feet from ropes.

In addition to fifty actors, there is a live band and chorus which provide latin chants and evocative music under the direction of Kim Baston. The simple yet dramatic lighting, designed by Efterpi Soropos, takes advantage of the cavernous space of the Russell Street Garage.

Amanda Owen, Anni Davey (Circus Oz, Club Swing) amongst others women have trained the women. Some have been with the circus for its six years and others are novices but all are integrated into this wonderful community project which is based at the Footscray Community Arts Centre.

KATE HERBERT