Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Book & Lyrics by Alan
Jay Lerner, Music by Frederick Loewe
The Production Company At State
Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Nov 5, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sat Oct 28, 2017 Stars: ****
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon Oct 30, 2017 & later in print (31/10). KH
Brigadoon - Genevieve Kingsford & cast - pic Jeff Busby
Loewe’s Brigadoon is a deliciously
old-fashioned, musical rom-com set in a magical, 17th century Scottish
village that materialises out of the mist for only one day every 100 years.
Langley’s production transposes the period from 1947 to 2017 when rich boy, Tommy (Rohan Browne), andhis jaded friend, Jeff (Luke Joslin), who are New Yorkers on
a tourist trek through Scotland, stumble upon this fairy tale place.
their single day in this mythical place, Tommy falls in love with copper-haired
beauty, Fiona (Genevieve Kingsford),
while Jeff fights off the advances of brazen Meg (Elise McCann).
by the on stage orchestra under Michael Tyack’s musical direction, the cast provides
a feast of musical numbers including Almost Like Being In Love, the memorable love
duet sung by Browne and Kingsford.
Browne is magnetic and
roguish as Tommy, adding another dimension to the character with his skilful
and sprightly dance moves, while Kingsford’s
rich, powerful soprano is perfect for the spirited Fiona, and her duet with Browne, The Heather on the Hill,
is warm and charming.
Manahan is boisterously upbeat as
bridegroom, Charlie, and he vivaciously leads the ensemble in I’ll Go Home With
garners laughs as the glib and cynical Jeff while McCann is suitably brassy and
seductive as Meg and Nancye Hayes plays the restructured role of Mrs. Forsythe
stage design (Christina Smith) provides space for vibrantchoreography (Cameron Mitchell) while the hanging wooden crosses that
protect the village from the evils of the outside world lend a darker edge to
the village story.
is performed infrequently, but the audience’s response to its rollicking tunes,
magical landscape and romantic narrative suggests that it should materialise
out of the Scottish mists more often.
Created by Adena Jacobs &
Aaron Orzech, by Fraught Outfit
Theatre Works, until Oct 29, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:*** Review also published in Herald Sun Artson Thurs Oct 26, 2017 in print only. KH
The cast of fifteen children works very hard in Book of Exodus Part II, an abstract,
physical interpretation of Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament.
Jacobs’ production, developed with Aaron Orzech, takes literally the notion of
‘The Children of Israel’ by casting children as the Israelites who escape Egypt
led my Moses, roam the desert and invoke the wrath of Yahweh when they worship
a false idol.
The cast captures a sense
of the tribe’s disorientation, unruliness and desperate need of the leadership of
Moses or Yahweh to lead them out of the desert and provide them with purpose.
Part I of Book of Exodus included
surtitles explaining narrative and characters, but Part II has no such
explication so relies on theatrical imagery and some visually engaging
The performance is episodic,
with children performing scenes that distil the stories into simple, repeated, ritualistic
They begin in sleeping bags
on the gleaming, black floor then rise to weave through the space as if lost in
They strip to shorts and
singlets, then run, chase, murmur, whisper and scream – all without dialogue,
apart from a few words spoken by one child.
They spill black powder,
spreading it over their skin and the ground then, in imagery that exaggerates
the notion that they are infants, they suck on babies’ bottles or drink from a
complicated tubal feeding system attached to one child who may depict Moses.
They jump frantically to
reach a rack of feeding nipples lowered from above, but finally, exhausted by
their failed efforts to drink from this device, they degenerate into feverish,
Although they work hard,
the children appear to have limited connection to the story so the Exodus myth
remains confusing and incoherent; even those familiar with Exodus may not
penetrate the symbolism.
production is so opaque and obtuse that the compelling stories of Exodus are
unrecognisable and the outcome is ultimately unsatisfying theatre.
Written & directed by
Romi Trower, produced by Tristan Miall
Released in Melbourne on Oct
12, 2017 at Lido, Classic & Belgrave Cameo cinemas
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Adrian (Luke Ford) is
suspended from his post-doctoral research in quantum physics when his
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder finally impairs his capacity to function.
He encounters Grace (Anna
Sampson), a shy artist who has multiple personalities, one of which is G, a
provocative vamp and an artist, another being Spike, a crass and abusive
Adrian is a germophobe who
cannot abide being touched, wears gloves 24/7 and scrubs everything several
times a day. However, he adores driving fast and lives in a chaotic but well-scrubbed garage
owned by his father.
This movie suffers from a
lack of nuance and complexity in its characters, relationships, narrative and
comedy.Adrian, Grace (and her
other selves) and the people who surround them are caricatures instead of
layered characters.The psychology is
simplistic, with Adrian being a two-dimensional representation of an OCD
sufferer and Grace’s multiple personalities being broadly comical.
The flimsy and contrived narrative,
silly comedy and over-written dialogue are only occasionally interrupted by a
couple of more sincere interactions between Adrian and Grace when they perch on
their park bench.
Trower vainly inserts
colourful drag queens and Melbourne laneways decorated with vivid graffiti to
elevate the quirkiness but it is all to no avail when the story is so sketchy.
Written by Joanna Murray-Smith, by Red
Stitch Actors’ Theatre
At Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, until Nov 5, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:**** Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print on Thurs Oct 12, 2017, and online (date TBC). KH
Parents may relate to a father’s sentimental reminiscences about holding
his baby son tucked safely inside his coat on a winter’s day.
They may also feel the aching familiarity of that same father, Andy’s (Joe
Petruzzi) pain and alienation when that baby grows into his silent, secretive
and surly teenage son, Robbie.
Petruzzi gives a sensitive, nuanced but muscular performance as Andy in American Song, Joanna Murray-Smith’s 90 minute, solo play that was commissioned
for an America audience.
Tom Healey’s assured and well-paced direction lends the play emotional and
dynamic energy as Andy builds a real, stone wall (designer, Darryl Cordell) while
he weaves his tale of hope and joy that turns to grief and horror.
Murray-Smith’s dialogue is conversational and lyrical,
philosophical and natural, while Petruzzi is convincing and compelling as Andy,
playing him with passion and sympathy.
successfully creates a dramatic structure
that initially lulls us into a false sense of ‘happy families’, then sows the
seeds of doubt that grow like weeds into genuine fears until Andy reveals one
final, horrific incident that changed his life, and the lives of others,
Guns are far too easy to access in America, gun crime is rife and, in a
week when so many died in Las Vegas, this play confronts the human loss that is
the result of Americans’ unholy and dangerous ‘right to bear arms’.
Healey’s intelligent and deceptively simple production incorporates
evocative lighting (Bronwen Pringle) and a subtle soundscape (Patrick Cronin)
that build atmosphere as the tension escalates in Andy’s story.
Through Andy’s musings, Murray-Smith asks where the simpler, more
humanist America society that was characterised in Walt Whitman’s famous poem,
Leaves of Grass, has gone.
This week, the world is once more asking the same question.
THEATRE - Melbourne Festival Written by Angus Cerini, Patricia Cornelius, Wayne Macauley & Melissa Reeves, presented with Malthouse At Forecourt, Malthouse Theatre, until Oct 22, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print on Oct 10 & later online. KH
Susie Dee, Nicci Wilks, pic Tim Grey
The love-hate relationship between the mother and daughter in Caravan is ugly, unpredictable and characterised by bickering, confrontations and sporadic reconciliations.
Daughter, Donna (Nicci Wilks), and Mum, Judy (Susie Dee), live a claustrophobic existence, emotionally and financially trapped in their tatty, 1960s caravan littered with Judy’s pill bottles and a fast-emptying wine cask and furnished with mismatched fabrics, a crummy CD player and tiny TV.
Judy lies stranded on the bed like a beached seal, craving the cheap alcohol that is killing her, while Donna searches for dates on her Tinder account then dashes out to meet them for dangerous, quicky sexual encounters behind the caravan.
The power dynamic is volatile between this co-dependent pair as Donna struggles to nurse her selfish and smug mother who, in turn, whines and manipulates her daughter and refuses, after 37 years, to give her a kind word or reveal the name of Donna’s father.
The dialogue is acerbic and funny, effectively combining Aussie slang with poetic language and, although it has four writers, the tone and style are coherent and cohesive.
With humour and poignancy, the play successfully articulates the desperate plight of these two women who are bound by poverty, tragedy and hopeless dreams of a better life.
Wilks is totally credible as Donna who looks like a trapped and beaten creature that keeps returning to its abuser, while Dee plays Judy with a wry smile and an almost palpable, inner fantasy life that keeps her mood strangely buoyant as she lies incapacitated.
The audience sits outdoors – albeit under cover – peering like voyeurs into the open side of the caravan, experiencing the cramped, physical environment of the ‘white trash’ caravan and feeling the despairing atmosphere of its two inhabitants.
There are echoes of Beckett’s hapless tramps and Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when the women play games, tell stories and torment each other to pass the endless, isolated hours.
Caravan is an unsentimental observation of this dysfunctional relationship and its leaves an audience hoping that a better day will come for Donna and Judy, but knowing that it will not.
Created by Roger Bernat &
Yan Duyvendak, by Dreams Come True, Geneve
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Oct 5-9 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
This review is published only on this blog. This NOT a review for Herald Sun. KH
This pic is not of Melbourne season
Hamlet killed Polonius.
It’s a fictional killing, but we know it happened because we witness him stick
the knife into the arras behind which Polonius is hiding while he eavesdrops on
Hamlet’s conversation with his mother, Gertrude.
But what would an
Australian criminal court make of the evidence?
Please, Continue (Hamlet)
is a dramatised and mostly improvised version of a court case against Hamlet,
complete with a real judge, real lawyers and forensics expert. The legal
personnel change each night but the three constants are the actors playing
Hamlet (Chris Ryan), Ophelia (Jessica Clarke) and Gertrude (Genevieve Picot).
If you’ve ever witnessed
court proceedings, you’ll know that they can be slow, laborious and
mind-numbingly dull with occasional moments of interest or glimpses of brilliance
and wit from a barrister.
Such is the case with
these proceedings that are based on a blend of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with a real
On opening night, Lesley
Taylor QC led the Defence with confidence, sharp humour and theatrical flair while
John Champion SC was formal and dignified leading the Prosecution and forensic
pathologist, Ass. Prof. David Ranson was compelling and a bit of a hoot –
This Hamlet is a lowbrow
petty crim rather than a privileged royal and Ryan captures his nervous
evasiveness. Clarke’s Ophelia is a resentful party gal while and Picot’s Gertrude
is nervy and suitably bemused by the legal palaver.
Please Continue (Hamlet)
is perhaps more interesting as an idea than as a piece of theatre but its success
depends to a great degree on the legal fraternity’s capacity to entertain a
On opening night, Oct 5,
2017, legal team included:
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon Oct 3 and later in print. (Tues Oct 4?). KH
Lulu McClatchy & Jenny Seedsman
middle-aged women doing a nude photo-shoot
for the Women’s Institute (WI) calendar is the hilarious high point of Calendar
Girls by Tim Firth.
In this production directed by Peter J Snee, the crowd goes wild when these
self-conscious women pose with their private bits obscured only by their baked
goods and craftwork.
Curvaceous Ruth (Lulu McClatchy) reclines
amidst oranges and marmalade jars, wiry Jessie (Francesca Waters) poses
pertly with skeins of wool, sassy trophy wife, Celia (Tottie Goldsmith) peeps
from behind discreetly placed buns and single mum, Cora (Kate Gorman), turns
coyly at her piano.
The instigators of this alternative calendar are mischievous
Chris (Jenny Seedsman)
and her more sedate friend, Annie (Abi Richardson), whose husband John’s (John
Voce) death from leukaemia triggers the pair’s plan to raise funds for the
hospital that nursed him.
Set in Yorkshire and based on the true story of the astoundingly
successful, 1999 WI nude calendar, the play tracks the calendar’s evolution,
Annie and Chris’s struggle to gain the support of their stroppy president,
Marie (Lise Rodgers),
and the national WI, and the personal clashes that arise when the calendar achieves
worldwide popularity and fame outstrips charity.
Snee’s production may have its high point in the nude photo-shoot at the
end of Act One, but the earlier scenes feel static, with slow cueing and some
awkward, stand-and-deliver dialogue.
Firth’s narrative balances warmth with poignancy, although the dialogue
gets a bit twee or preachy at times and it is a pity that the important, final
scene, when the women visit John’s memorial, sunflower fields on the Yorkshire
dales, falls flat.
The performances are good-humoured with McClatchy’s cutely naive Ruth a comic highlight while Waters’ feisty, retired
schoolteacher is refreshingly wicked.
The real WI nude calendar has raised over $8 million to date and, in a week
when Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner died, it is fun to compare the impact of the cheerful,
charitable WI nude calendar with the nudie centrefolds that it parodied.