Tuesday, 22 September 2015

'Critics' Corner' in Foxtel's Arts program, Event, Sun 4 Oct, 2015

On Sunday 4 October, I will be appearing in the second episode of Foxtel's new Arts program, called EVENT.

I'm in the segment called Critics' Corner in which critics, arts editors and writers discuss what they have been seeing and reading with EVENT co-host Cassie McCullagh of ABC’s Radio National. EVENT’s main host is Deborah Hutton.

The program will run on the first Sunday of every month.  It will also, I believe,  appear on Youtube the same date.

If you are interested to see the first ep. that ran on Sun 6 October, here is the link:

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Company, 17 Sept 2015 ***1/2

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by George Furth
Produced by Watch This
At fortyfivedownstairs, until Oct 4, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published online in Herald Sun today, Fri 18 Sept 2015 and later in print. KH
 Clockwise from centre: Nick Simpson-Deeks (seated), Johanna Allen,Sally Bourne,John O'Hara,Tim Paige, Sonya Suares,Nathan Carter,Mark Dickinson,Gillian Cosgriff, Nelson Gardner,Nicole Melloy, Pic Jodie Hutchinson

In Company, Bobby is the likeable, urbane, New York bachelor living a carefree life that is the envy of his married friends. 

When these adoring pals plan a surprise party to celebrate his 35th birthday, Bobby (AKA Robert) can neither blow out the candles nor manage to make a wish. What’s wrong?

Company, with Stephen Sondheim’s pithy music and lyrics and a witty book by George Furth, won seven Tony awards in 1970, but its provocative themes about the cares and despairs of marriage and relationships still resonate today.

The musical has a non-linear narrative comprising a series of vignettes – Bobby’s thoughts and memories about dinners and parties with these five, diverse couples and a plethora of dates with three of his many girlfriends.

Nick SimpsonDeeks has a bright but warm vocal quality and fine control in his upper register and he cleverly balances Bobby’s smart urbanity with an air of bemused childlikeness.

His rendition of Being Alive is thrilling, his Someone Is Waiting is poignant and Marry Me A Little emphasises Bobby’s naiveté and confusion about marriage.

The ensemble numbers are highlights with the title song, Company, having a rich and exhilarating quality while Side By Side By Side has a playful, almost vaudevillian style.

Some standout performances in Kat Henry’s production include Sally Bourne as the boozy, abrasive, misanthropic and wealthy Joanne, an older woman whose acerbic comments fall like acid rain on any party.

Johanna Allen is exceptionally funny and fine-voiced as Jenny, the slightly blousy ‘square’ who hilariously experiences her first marijuana high with Bobby and her husband, David (Mark Dickinson).

Carina Waye is suitably ditzy and comical as April, the airline stewardess, and Madeleine McKenzie is warm and luscious as Kathy, another of Bobby’s former lovers.

Although the acting is sometimes uneven and occasionally the group staging feels a little mechanical, the ensemble has fun playing the parade of Robert’s crazy, dysfunctional, addled and argumentative married friends and his quirky girlfriends.

The band is tight under musical director, Lucy O’Brien, and Michael Ralph’s choreography is vivacious and funny throughout, although the solo dance during instrumental, Tick-Tock, cries out for multiple dancers.

If you are a Sondheim fan, you should rush out and see Company with its idiosyncratic music, bevy of bonkers characters and witty but wise reflections on relationships in a modern world.

By Kate Herbert

 frm L clockwise Nelson Gardner,Mark Dickinson,Tim Paige,Nathan Carter,John O'Hara,Nick Simpson-Deeks, Pic Jodie Hutchinson
  L-R Nick Simpson-Deeks Sally Bourne, Nathan Carter; Jodie Hutchinson
Direction: Kat Henry
Musical Director Lucy O’Brien
Choreography by Michael Ralph
Design by Eugyeene Teh, Zoë Rouse & Rob Sowinski.
Nick SimpsonDeeks, Sally Bourne, Gillian Cosgriff, Johanna Allen, Bianca Baykara, Nathan Carter, Mark Dickinson, Nelson Gardner, Madeleine Mackenzie, Nicole Melloy, John O'Hara, Tim Paige, Sonya Suares, Carina Waye.

They Saw A Thylacine, 16 Sept, 2015 ***

Created & performed by Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, until Oct 4, 2015 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***
Full review will be published here after publication in Herald Sun online today. KH
 Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton: Rehearsal pic by Pia Johnson

So, how do you transform the sad and shameful story of the avoidable extinction of the Tasmanian tiger into a simple but illuminating piece of theatre?

In They Saw A Thylacine, Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton employ good, old-fashioned storytelling, rhyming dialogue, bold characters and direct address to expose the incompetence that led to the extinction of the Tassie tiger, AKA thylacine.

79 years ago on September 7, 1936, the last known Tasmanian tiger – a female – died in captivity in the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart.

On an almost empty, clinically white stage, Campbell and Hamilton use dramatic and evocative monologues to tell their tale of ignorance, fear, sexism and wholesale trapping and killing.

Campbell plays Alison Reid, the real-life daughter of the last zookeeper at Beaumaris zoo, while Hamilton is a fictional character, Beattie, a tracker who pursues and catches a yipping thylacine in the wilds of Tasmania.

As the articulate and determined Alison, Campbell exposes the ignorance and fear of the zoo authorities and their sexism that prevented Alison from saving the life of Ben, that last thylacine.

Hamilton’s Beattie is a raw, primitive, young woman living rough but clearly committed to taking the tiger alive, despite the blood lust of her undesirable companion, Fred the trapper.

Although the two actors share the stage and acknowledge each other’s presence, their characters inhabit different times and places and reveal a litany of bad policies and idiotic decisions that killed off the thylacine.

While the pace of this one hour show is gentle, the conservation message is uncompromising and the two actors create strong characters and some vivid imagery with little embellishment.

There could be more dynamic range in the rhythm of the piece and it might benefit from a little more physicality, but this is an engaging production with a heart and a strong message.

Kate Herbert


Friday, 11 September 2015

Theatresports 30th Anniversary show, Fri 11 Sept 2015

Theatresports 30th Anniversary show
Kaleide Theatre, RMIT, Swanston St, Melbourne
Tonight, Friday 11 Sept, 215 at 8pm.

Yes, it's 30 years since we, the intrepid improvisers, comics, actors and die-hards performed the very first Theatresports Melbourne show at St. Martins Theatre in September 1985.

And yes, I was there as a judge on night one and then, from week two, I played Theatresports consistently for the next 20 years (!?) in Melbourne. Then I started travelling to Auckland, Canada and USA to play with my international family of improvising mates.

My special relationship with San Francisco and BATS Improv, developed after I met my long-lasting friends, Rebecca Scott & Reed Kirk Rahlmann at the Keith Johnstone Improv Summer School in Calgary ('Cow Town') in July 1990.

So, now it is 30 years later – with our aching joints and tired brains –  we are celebrating improvising and Theatresports and the joy that it brought us for all of those years and the careers it spawned in comedy, TV, radio and theatre. 

I could fall on my face and be embarrassing tonight (could be fun!) but there's the beauty of improvising; if one scenes is rubbish just wait a few minutes, because the next could be astounding.

Kate x
Above: Grand Final Winners', Perry Stroika, in 1990 (or 1991?). The core team was Chris Keogh, Geoff Paine, Ross Williams and Kate Herbert. This version includes Luke Sorba (UK), Glenn Robbins replacing Geoff Paine.

Below: pics of 4 x 4's from 1986 (I think). This was my very first team of geniuses: John Thompson, Ian Shrives, Carole Patullo and Kate Herbert. Carole and I then became The Flat Whites comedy duo for four years, 86-90.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Intergalactic Nemesis, Sept 9-13, 2015

The Intergalactic Nemesis: A Live Action Graphic Novel
Arts Centre Melbourne, 9-13 September 2015

 I am not reviewnig this but it sounds fabulous! KH

From Media Release:

'Telling an all-ages adventure story set in the 1930s, The Intergalactic Nemesis at Arts Centre Melbourne from 9-13 September mashes up comic book and radio-play formats into a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience, the Live-Action Graphic Novel. 

'The unique American work, written and directed by Jason Neulander, is set in 1933. Pulitzer-winning reporter Molly Sloan, her intrepid assistant Timmy Mendez, and a mysterious librarian named Ben Wilcott face the most serious threat Earth has ever known: an impending invasion of sludge monsters from the planet Zygon. 

'Three actors voice dozens of characters, a Foley artist creates all the sound effects, and a pianist plays a cinematic score, while more than 1,250 individual full-colour hi-res comic book panels tell a hilarious sci-fi adventure story visually from an enormous movie screen.'

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Detroit, Red Stitch, 3 Sept 2015 ***1/2

By Lisa D’Amour, Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre
Red Stitch Theatre, St Kilda, 28 Aug to 26 Sept, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published in Herald Sun online today, Fri 4 Sept, 2015, and in print later.
I am hoping to see Betrayal (MTC) some time soon, too.  K8
Sarah Sutherland & Ngaire Dawn Fair

In Lisa D’Amour’s grim comedy, Detroit, the lives of a suburban couple aspiring to The American Dream hurtle into chaos when they befriend their new neighbours.

While Ben (Brett Cousins) struggles with his recent redundancy from his job as a loans officer at the bank, his wife, Mary (Sarah Sutherland), becomes increasingly reliant on vodka and resentment.

Their elusive neighbours seem to be a suitable distraction from Mary and Ben’s economic downturn and the isolation of the suburban sprawl in which no one talk to the neighbours any more.

‘Everybody needs good neighbours’, preaches that soap opera theme, but volatile Kenny (Paul Ashcroft) and his ditzy girlfriend, Sharon (Ngaire Dawn Fair), are fresh from rehab programs and clearly new to the concept of suburban delights – they have no furniture and dead end jobs.

As these two dysfunctional couples clutch at mutual friendship in a disquieting parody of backyard barbecue bliss and suburban decorum, they reveal shattered dreams, lost opportunities, fragile deceptions and frayed nerves.

However, despite the unsettling sense of impending devastation, perhaps a phoenix will be reborn out of the ashes of their lives.

D’Amour’s script is not perfectly structured but her dialogue captures the comic pandemonium that occurs when these four lives collide over a grilled burger and lapse into barbecue bacchanalia.

The performances by all four actors are strong although Tanya Dickson’s direction occasionally loses control of the necessary, onstage bedlam.

Sutherland is a delight to watch as the prim but sozzled Mary as she slurs her words, teeters on her heels and snipes at the soft target that is her husband, Ben, whose wide-eyed naiveté and fading optimism Cousins captures with warmth and sensitivity.

As recovering addict Sharon, Fair explodes on the stage with cheerful mania and a seductive but alien quality, while Ashcroft gives Kenny an unpredictable, quietly dangerous edge.

Detroit may not be an American classic but it prods at these mutilated lives until we must laugh or cry – or both.

Kate Herbert

Cast: Paul Ashcroft, Brett Cousins, Ngaire Dawn Fair, Sarah Sutherland & Chris Wallace
Director Tanya Dickson
Assistant Director Sam Russo
Set & Lighting Designer Matt Adey – House of Vnholy
Sound Designer Russell Goldsmith
Costume Designer Jack Grifford
Choreographer Helen Duncan
Vocal Coach Les Cartwright
Stage Manager Elizabeth Downes