Sunday, 23 December 2001

Masterclass, Dec 23, 2001

By Terrence McNally 
At The Playhouse, Dec 23 2001 to Jan 20, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

For a second opening night in two years, Amanda Muggleton propelled a Melbourne audience to its feet in applause.

Muggleton reprises her role as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's play, Masterclass, directed stylishly by Rodney Fisher. The play is based on Callas's master vocal classes at the Julliard School in New York during 1971 and 1972 after her own voice deteriorated irrevocably.

Although there is no physical resemblance between actor and diva, Muggleton inhabits Callas's character totally. She feels the role - from the inside, just as Callas vehemently encourages her students to do. Callas's presence in the room is palpable.

The arrogant, domineering, conceited prima donna says, "Art is domination.....Art is collaboration." Muggleton takes her alter-ego's advice and dominates the audience and her fellow cast members while collaborating impeccably with them in this exceptional performance.

As she perches on a stool, banters with the pianist, (Tyrone Landau) or sweeps around the stage, she recaptures Callas's "Look": her style, her elegant demeanour, every statuesque gesture, harsh word and icy gaze.

McNally, using much of Callas's own words from the master classes, recreates her tactless and brutally honest criticism of her victims' appearance, dress, attitude and voice.

The beauty of the play is that McNally does not try to recreate Callas's voice on stage. It would be impossible. She had, Callas says, no rivals. 

Recordings of her singing La Somnambula and Verdi's Lady Macbeth, are Muggleton's vehicle to transport us into Callas's mind-body memory of being La Divina.

Fisher closes the space down with dramatic lighting designed by David Walters, A single spotlight frames Muggleton's face as Callas. In impassioned monologue, she reminisces about her violently passionate affair with the philistine, Onassis, her early career, her marriage to Meneghini and her craving for a child, her disappointments.

She stands against a muted and romantic backdrop of La Scala created by elaborate slides.  We are transported to the opera theatre.

Verdi's music and Callas's voice seem to penetrate Muggleton's body and pump through her in a pulse of emotion.

Muggleton is delightfully supported by three young singer-actors. Melissa Madden Gray is the twitchy ingenue, Sophie. Marc Cinque plays the perky, Brooklyn tenor, Tony. 

Natasha Hunter with her rich soprano, makes a feisty Sharon. A slouching stagehand is hilariously underplayed by Greg Ulfan. 

"Never miss an opportunity to theatricalise", says Callas. Muggleton plays this teasing, histrionic, rude sarcastic competitive creature of the opera with great aplomb and consummate technique.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday, 6 December 2001

Ride by Jan Bodie. Dec 6, 2001

By Jane Bodie
 at Beckett Theatre, Malthouse Dec 6 to 15, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The storyline of Jane Bodie's witty two-hander, Ride, might be outside of some people's experience altogether. We can only hope so.

A young man and woman wake up naked in a bed together. They have no idea who the other is, how they met, how they got home nor whether they - um - actually had sex.

Both are hung over and suffering a frustrating selective amnesia. The important parts of the night before are obliterated.

The woman is performed energetically by Fiona Macleod. She brings to the role a vibrating anxiety and playful uncertainty.

As her lover or non-lover, Christopher Brown is delightfully underplayed and subtle.

The two dance around each other emotionally. She tries to leave but her shoe is missing, and her bra, and her handbag and phone and, well, her memory.

Bodie's dialogue is swift, often hilarious and cleverly wrought. She never wastes a word.  Thoughts fly in unexpectedly and we are constantly surprised. 

The characters are beautifully observed, inner-urban ('It's Northcote but some people call it North Fitzroy') contemporary 20 somethings. 

They try to maintain distance while inwardly panicking about their apparent intimacy. They try to separate but end up playing scrabble on the bed where they had - or didn't - have sex.

Bodie, who also directs the play deftly, keeps the pace cantering along. Three scenes are defined by the shift of the bed on stage so we view them from a new angle each time. The design (by Simon Terrill, Jane Fullerton) for the Northcote bedroom is established sparingly by the outline of a window frame, a plant and pile of books and a mirror.

Music by Carl Pannuzzo and evocative and unobtrusive lighting by Michele Preshaw enhance the mystery of the play.

The beauty of the piece is in the unfolding of their secret selves to a virtual stranger with whom they feel strangely safe and comfortable with intermittent bursts of insecurity and doubt.

It is fascinating to watch two characters trapped by their own devices in a room in a single day as we follow their developing relationship from strangers to almost strangers. They could be an axe-murderers for all they know.

This is a delightful play with two warm and committed performances from Macleod and brown.

By Kate Herbert
for 2 pages:

Wednesday, 5 December 2001

Silver Rose by Kate O'Brien, Dec 5, 2001

at La Mama until December 16, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss is the basis for Silver Rose, a play by Kate O'Brien, directed by Lloyd Jones . Unfortunately, the play does not rise to the level of its parent opera.

The concept is that Adele, (Heather Leviston) the diva singing the role of the Marschallin from Rosenkavalier, falls crashingly in love with her co-lead.

Not such an unusual story, you say? Well, the fact that the young lover, Octavian, is played by a mezzo-soprano, takes the romance into same-sex love territory.

Iris (Mary Helen Pirola) is an 'out' young, funky lesbian. Adele is a celebrated singer, a middle-aged woman with a husband, child and public reputation she wants to protect.

Here is a recipe for high drama, deception, clandestine trysts, dramatic or romantic arias and operatic emoting. Sadly, the play lacks these.

The actors look uncomfortable and have difficulty making the awkward dialogue convincing.
Both Leviston and Pirola  are singers and the production might have benefited from a fuller use of sung text to heighten emotion and give us a sense of the opera the characters perform.

Music provides a background to scene changes but it is an oddly eclectic mixture of popular, ballads and passages from the opera. Lyrics are often spoken which feels stagy. 

One very long scene is essentially an unaccompanied song that is sung prettily by Pirola. The song, however, does not advance the story and goes on too long.

O'Brien's script lacks coherent structure and wanders between styles. Poetic purple patches follow internal monologues and long, repetitive dialogues between the potential lovers.

It has no dramatic conflict, no surprises and no sub-text. We know everything from the beginning.  Too many scenes do not serve the story. 

The play begins as Adele's story then becomes Iris's. There short and pointless scenes from Adele's childhood that explain nothing of her present. It delves at too great a length in the middle of the play, into Iris's past failed relationship. There is too much exposition
and too little dramatic tension.

There are two unnecessarily slow costume changes at the beginning and end of the play. The pace alters little apart from in the childhood scenes with Adele's drunken dad.

This play needs a great deal of development to work theatrically.

By Kate Herbert

Saturday, 1 December 2001

2001 Reviews - Kate Herbert

2001 Reviews Kate Herbert

The following are all reviews published in Herald Sun during 2001. They are still available through

They will all be uploaded in full soon.  KH

 Masterful Muggleton   Herald Sun, 17-12-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 106, 332 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Masterclass Where and when: Playhouse until January 20 FOR a second opening night in two years, Amanda Muggleton propelled a Melbourne audience to its feet in applause. Muggleton reprises her role as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's play Masterclas...

   Jackson lights up for the show   Herald Sun, 12-12-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 067, 432 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
PAUL Jackson prefers to sit in the dark at the back of the theatre on opening nights of his shows. Ironically, he is a lighting designer. You may not even be conscious of the stage lighting in a show, particularly if a designer has a subtle touch. Ja...

    Morning after the . . . what?   Herald Sun, 11-12-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 057, 308 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Ride Where and when: Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, until this Saturday Bookings: 9685 5111 Reviewer: Kate Herbert T HE plot of Jane Bodie's witty two-hander, Ride, may be outside some people's experience altogether. We can only hope so. A man and woman...

   Tarnished Rose   Herald Sun, 07-12-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 099, 422 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Silver Rose Where and when: La Mama until December 16 Bookings: 9347 6142 RICHARD Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier forms the basis for Silver Rose, a play written by Kate O'Brien and directed by Lloyd Jones. Unfortunately, the play does not rise to the le...

   Riveting tale of murder told with grace   Herald Sun, 30-11-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 092, 305 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
REVIEWTHEATRE Alias Grace Where and when: The Annexe, Trades Hall, until December 9 A FINE collaboration between actor, director and designer is always a treat. Combined with a wonderful stage adaptation of a book by award-winning novelist Margaret A...

   Rewarding night with a master   Herald Sun, 30-11-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 092, 352 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
REVIEWMIME Marcel Marceau Where and when: Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre, until December 5 THERE was a mood of anticipation before the curtain rose on Marcel Marceau. We were in the presence of a theatrical legend and we hoped his 78 years had not ...

   Best left to the bard   Herald Sun, 23-11-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 091, 218 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
REVIEW THEATRE William 37 IT IS puzzling why playwright/director Adam Cass chose to write this play based on Shakespeare's 37 plays -- puzzling mainly because it struggles to work as a piece of theatre. Seven actors appear in Cass's 90-minute narrati...

    Magical spell of threads that bind   Herald Sun, 20-11-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 053, 334 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Inside Out Where and when: Brunswick Mechanics Institute until December 1. Reviewer: Kate Herbert THE development of new theatrical work with inexperienced actors can be magical. With Inside Out, director Nadja Kostich has created such a work -- a mo...

   Luck of the Irish   Herald Sun, 19-11-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 090, 315 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Stones in his Pockets Performed by: Melbourne and Sydney Theatre Companies Where and when: Fairfax Studio, Victorian Arts Centre, until Dec 15 Reviewer: Kate Herbert T HE Irish are often represented as eccentric, cute and quirky; they must be bored t...

   Paradise misplaced   Herald Sun, 13-11-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 048, 290 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Beyond the Gate of Heavenly Peace Where and when: La Mama at Carlton Courthouse, until November 24 Reviewer: Kate Herbert T HE image of a Chinese student standing resolute in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square is indelibly printed on our psyche. Bey...

    Theatre to die for   Herald Sun, 05-11-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 102, 174 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Lucky Stiff, book & lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Music by Stephen Flaherty Where and when: Chapel off Chapel Reviewer: Kate Herbert A CORPSE is on stage in Lucky Stiff. Yes, a corpse. A live actor spends two hours playing dead in this US musical written in...

   A beautiful midsummer night   Herald Sun, 05-11-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 104, 315 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
A Midsummer Night's Dream Where and when: Studio 45, 45 Sturt St, Southbank, until November 18 THE usually austere Studio 45 at the Victorian College of the Arts Drama School has been transformed into a fairy forest. The entry space, contrived as Duk...

    Thank god for some light relief   Herald Sun, 26-10-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 095, 320 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Thank God for the Idiot Box Where and when: La Mama at the Carlton Courthouse, until Oct 27 THERE is so much sophisticated, hyped-up performance on during the Melbourne Festival, it is refreshing to see a bunch of teenagers doing a show they created ...

   Lies, damned lies and improvisation   Herald Sun, 24-10-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 053, 418 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
IF IMPROVISATION is an elaborate form of lying, I have been lying elaborately in Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand since 1985. Most recently I've done so in the improvisers' heaven in San Francisco -- at the Bay Area Theatresports (BATS) Impr...

    Big Apple carrot   Herald Sun, 24-10-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 054, 301 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
AUSTRALIAN actors are succeeding in Hollywood, but our playwrights still struggle to get a gig overseas. The Australian National Playwrights Centre is trying to redress this. Artistic director May-Brit Ackerholt has announced scripts to be sent to Ne...  

  As right as rain   Herald Sun, 08-10-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 090, 589 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
REVIEWSTAGE Singin' in the Rain, by Betty Comden and Stanley Donen, music by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed T HE opening night crowd at the Regent Theatre burst into spontaneous applause as the stage rain fell from the theatrical sky. My witty gue...

   Our virtual stage   Herald Sun, 15-08-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 054, 561 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
EVER needed to settle a pub bet about Mel Gibson's early Shakespeare work or Geoffrey Rush's life before Shine? Now you can check old reviews and show your mates whether Nicole Kidman could act or not. Aus Stage is a website in development to be laun...

    Dangerous business   Herald Sun, 01-08-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 054, 484 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
There may be no business like show business, but it is only just getting a safety guide, writes KATE HERBERT THEATRE is artifice, but theatre accidents are all too real. Julie Nihill has cut herself on broken crockery on stage, and circus performer A...

    Yes, she has a banana   Herald Sun, 14-07-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 110, 617 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
One actor is enjoying the fruit of her labours, writes LORETTA HALL THEATRE work can be hard to get in Melbourne. Jenny Lovell, an actor with 26 years' experience, has had to settle for a stage job that pays bananas. Lovell is rewarded with fruit for...

    Hitting home   Herald Sun, 12-05-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 109, 277 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
hit and run, by Kate Herbert Where and when: Carlton Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, until May 26 ON the surface, the title hit and run seems to refer to the accident that has claimed the life of two-year-old Jack. But it's the emotional hit on Jack's m...

 Heart of darkness   Herald Sun, 08-05-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 057, 398 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
A local playwright explores a mother's crippling grief, writes SARAH HUDSON THEY are faceless statistics. The innocent hit-and-run victims who merely happened to be in the wrong place at a very wrong time. For most of us they become a quick news flas...

   Women make a nice meal of it   Herald Sun, 24-03-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 099, 276 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Salt Where and when: Playbox Theatre at Beckett Theatre; until April 21 Reviewer: Kate Herbert MOTHERS and daughters. Food and kitchens. They seem part of the same picture. Mothers teach daughters to cook....

   At one with the players   Herald Sun, 23-03-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 092, 360 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Scenes of the Beginning from the End Where and when: Public Office carpark, Adderley St, West Melbourne, until March 25 Bookings: 9537 0772 Reviewer: Kate Herbert WE are meaning-makers. Our little synapses go mad hooking up seemingly disconnected ima...

    Lust selfish by design   Herald Sun, 16-03-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 092, 369 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Design for Living By Noel Coward Where and when: Playhouse, until April 14 NOEL Coward was a prolific playwright and songwriter. His plays are full of witty dialogue and smart, urbane, often glib characters. Design for Living, written in 1932, is no ...

    Mothballs no musty offering   Herald Sun, 12-03-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 098, 288 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Mothballs Where and when: Chapel off Chapel until April 1 JACK Hibberd's style is recognisably idiosyncratic even after 30 or so years of writing for the Australian theatre. Mothballs, his latest monologue in a series of new plays, is performed with ...

   Going backwards on love   Herald Sun, 02-03-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 092, 306 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Betrayal THERE is a creeping fear in us all of betrayal by a lover, partner or friend. In Harold Pinter's 1978 play, Betrayal, a wife's affair with her husband's best friend for seven years is not the only treachery. Emma, played with great composure...

   Pulling lots of strings   Herald Sun, 23-02-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 092, 329 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Miss Tanaka Where and when: Playbox at Merlin Theatre until March 10 Bookings: 9685 5111 Reviewer: Kate Herbert JOHN Romeril's new play is a charming and pretty mixed-media production. It integrates puppetry, video, original composition and choreogra...

    Mysteries unravelled   Herald Sun, 23-02-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 093, 344 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Mysteries Where and when: Beckett Theatre; until March 3 Bookings: 9685 5111 Reviewer: Kate Herbert MYSTERIES, a new short work by Daniel Keene, is a series of unconnected scenes rather than a play. Two great strengths of the production are the direc..

.    Subtly hooked   Herald Sun, 20-02-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 054, 376 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
My Brother the Fish Performed by: Dan Scollay Where and when: La Mama until Sunday WE ARE charmed, even as adults, by a simple and well-told story. My Brother the Fish is just that -- a poignant, evocative and sweet Irish tale. Dan Scollay is a magne...

   Rod wields the baton   Herald Sun, 14-02-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 088, 269 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Lest We Forget Where and when: Trades Hall until March 3 Reviewer: Kate Herbert R OD Quantock was at the S11 demonstration at Crown Casino on September 11. He says he was also a victim of the baton charge by the police that day. In his new show, Lest...

   Genocide story batters its audience   Herald Sun, 13-02-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 058, 360 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
The Singing Forest Where and when: Theatreworks, from February 10 AUSCHWITZ is not unknown to us. We see documentary footage of the bodies, furnaces, gas chambers, graves and sheds in which enemies of the Third Reich were incarcerated and murdered. T...

   Dad, if you don't laugh, you'll cry   Herald Sun, 12-02-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 089, 416 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
REVIEWSTAGE It's a Dad Thing! Where and when: Athenaeum Theatre; no closing date Reviewer: Kate Herbert THIS is the third incarnation of It's a Dad Thing! and the best by a long shot. Five men tell tales of the highs and lows of being a dad, ranging ...

   Just an ordinary man   Herald Sun, 29-01-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 088, 367 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Dating Joe and Sunset BBQ Where and when: Chapel off Chapel, until February 4 Reviewer: Kate Herbert THE Midsumma Festival often has too many high-camp shows that represent gay stereotypes. Happily, Mark Fletcher's Dating Joe and Sunset BBQ are not o...

   The subtle art of friendships   Herald Sun, 26-01-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 067, 449 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Art Where and when: Playhouse until February 24 DON'T waste any time. Book your ticket to Art right now -- then come back and read this. Got them? Good....

   Compelling new look at life of Jesus   Herald Sun, 20-01-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 106, 398 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Corpus Christi Where and when: Athenaeum II until February 4 LOOK what they did to him! say the apostles after Jesus is crucified in Corpus Christi. It is a poignant, simple and respectful ending to a play that has caused controversy among religious ..

.    The big bang   Herald Sun, 12-01-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 088, 348 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
REVIEWTHEATRE Man the Balloon Where and when: Melbourne Theatre Company at Fairfax Studio, until February 10 THE notion of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is weird and hilarious and Matt Cameron's first full-length play for the MTC, Man the Balloo...

    Splendor on the grass   Herald Sun, 08-01-2001, Ed: 1 - FIRST, Pg: 078, 272 words , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Romeo and Juliet Where and when: Royal Botanic Gardens THEATRE and the great outdoors do not always go together these days, despite the amphitheatres of ancient Greece and Shakespeare's roofless Elizabethan theatres. Glenn Elston's Australian Shakesp...