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...  

Wednesday, 28 November 2001

Alias Grace, Nov 28, 2001

Adapted by Laurence Strangio  from the novel by Margaret Atwood at The Annexe Trades Hall, Nov 28 to Dec 9, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

A fine collaboration between actor, director and designer is always a treat. When combined with a wonderful stage adaptation of an award-winning novelist, we have a special night.

Alias Grace is such a theatrical experience. The script adaptation by director, Laurence Strangio, is from the novel by Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood.

The versatile actor is Caroline Lee who developed the production with Strangio for its first season in 1999. It attracted two Green Room Award nominations.

Lee performs solo on a promenade stage. The audience is seated along one side as she prowls up and down on Anna Tregloan's evocative and prison-like angular set that is lit subtly by Bronwyn Pringle.

Lee is Grace Marks, the notorious 16 year old Canadian housemaid  gaoled in the 1840's for murdering her master, Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy.

Alias Grace is a well-crafted script with a compelling performance by Lee. She effortlessly tells Grace's life story and that of the murders in ninety minutes alone on stage. She plays the outwardly foolish maidservant as well as representing the knowing inner life of this disturbed but misunderstood girl.

Her performance has a strange and luminous quality. She crawls inside the peculiar, addled mind of Grace as she narrates and enacts her own story.

There is a wry humour to Lee's interpretation of Grace. Her delivery and timing are impeccable and the complexity of the performance is admirable.

Strangio allows the text and the actor to tell the story by leaving the narration uncluttered. He strips the novel back to the relationship between Dr. Jordan and Grace. We are in suspense until the final scene, waiting to discover the truth of her crime.

The denouement is more disturbing than we expect. Grace is not lying about her innocence. She merely has no knowledge of her guilt.

Scenes are defined by titles announced by Grace: Puss in the Corner, The Tree of Paradise. She introduces us to her doctor, Simon Jordan. Lee then shifts between Irish-accented Grace and Canadian Jordan.

Lee also plays Mary, Grace's murdered friend, her co-accused, McDermott who was hanged for their crimes, Nancy and Kinnear and sundry others.

Alias Grace is riveting theatre.

By Kate Herbert

Tuesday, 27 November 2001

Marcel Marceau , Nov 28 to Dec 5, 2001

produced by Andrew McKinnon Presentations  
 at Playhouse Victorian Arts Centre, Nov 27 until December 5, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There was a mood of anticipation before the curtain rose on Marcel Marceau. We were in the presence of a theatrical legend. We hoped his 78 years had not lessened his genius.

The master did not disappoint. He is impish, impertinent, skilful and relaxed. His performance demands the avid attention and complicity of his audience and is challenging and rewarding.

As is to be expected with age, Marceau has a little less physical control and strength now. However, he is still a master of mimetic illusion. He creates objects out of thin air, vivid locations in an empty space, and peoples the stage with countless quirky characters.

He creates emotional atmosphere from minimal gesture or a shift in expression. The universality of his characters and their simple human stories allows us to identify with their predicaments.

The first half comprises a selection - different each evening - of his best-loved scenarios. On opening night, we were treated to: The Creation of the World, The Public Garden, the Bird Keeper, The Trial The Hands and, lastly, Youth, Maturity, Old Age and Death.

After interval, Marceau returns as his popular clown, the sweet and tragic character, Bip, in a series of scenes; Bip as a Street Musician, Bip and the Dating Service, and The Mask Maker.

It is The Mask Maker, which prompted the audience to stand and cheer. It is a classic yet simple mime scenario. The crown is delighted like children by the swift and flawless changes of 'masked' expression by this consummate mime.

Another crowd-pleaser (and my favourite) was the old woman, knitting and gossiping at speed in The Public Garden.

The legal eagles in The Trial are uncannily recognisable: flamboyant and arrogant prosecutor, sympathy-seeking defence lawyer, hapless defendant and stately old judge.

On board ship in Bip at Sea, he convinces us of rising seas, rocking ship and surging seasickness. His poignant expectation of his ideal date in The Dating Service, is hilarious, charming and romantic. The tango with his monstrously tall nightmare date, is riotous.

The show is exceptionally well paced. He intersperses long and short, tragic and comic pieces. It is a fine night 's entertainment and, we can assume, we will never see him again in this country.

By Kate Herbert

Friday, 23 November 2001

Paul Jackson - Lighting designer, Nov 23, 2001

Paul Jackson - Lighting designer
by Kate Herbert , Nov 23, 2001

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 be conscious of the stage lighting in a show, particularly if a designer has a subtle touch.  You would, however, sit up like Jackie and complain if there were no lights.

Jackson describes lighting design as being "about building images and articulating space." He selects and emphasise certain things on stage over others, he says.

The designer is not the technical operator twiddling dials up in the bio-box (that little glassed in room up the back of the theatre.) He is a member of the creative team.

The job involves consultation with the director and set designer in order to create an atmosphere through choice of colour, angle of light, type of lamp plus a whole lot of pure inspiration.

For Jackson, it satisfies his "creative, conceptual need and the need to be technical and practical."

Hi most recent design is on stage until December at the Playbox in This Way Up.  Prior to that he designed City of Life for Oz Opera, Teorama for Chamber Made Opera, a double bill of Jack Hibberd and Barry Dickins at Playbox, Hit and Run at La Mama  and Shimmer  at Darebin.

He had a busy 2001 with seven lighting designs as well as production management for Not Yet It's Difficult (NYID)  and for Arena Theatre's tour to Taiwan.

In addition, he is completing a Masters in Australian Poetry and works as a set designer. Thank God for multi-skilling!

"I have my own look," says Jackson. " A series of motifs. A fascination with windows. Like Phil (designer, Phillip Lethlean OK ) I am fascinated with blue as a colour. Like Nathan, (designer, Nathan Thomson OK) I use open white light."

How visible the lighting is varies from show to show says Jackson. " If people come out saying, 'Wow! Green lighting!' then they didn't like the show."

He prefers the lighting to be integral to the production. "It is great if it has a dominant, foreground role but I am not interested in doing a light show".

"To me," he says, "Theatre is about more than just effects. Theatre is primarily a spatial art all about being physically present."

He finds it frustrating when "people who should know better" don't notice lights. "Reviewers often don't notice light although it has been better in recent years. They often don't notice sound or set design either."

Jackson says, "Although my strongest stuff is in intimate spaces, I am very interested in bigger spaces where the project is primarily visual."

The international companies and lighting designs he most admires include Hotel Pro Forma, Copenhagen and the Gate Theatre, Dublin.

Jackson had a Work Study Grant from the Australia Council in 2000 to study lighting design in Banff Canada with mentor, Harry Frehner.

He believes that, "ongoing creative relationships are vitally important." He has continuing collaborations with directors David Pledger (NYID), Daniel Schlusser and Peter Houghton.

They share common goals, a desire for exploration and a strong level of friendship. The work is as much about the people, a need for a sense of community, the constant exchange of ideas, he says.

2002 is already booking up. After a well-earned trip to New York and Canada in December, Jackson will return to design for Peter Houghton in an MTC show at the Fairfax Studio and will do two NYID shows during the year.

Go and see the light!

By Kate Herbert

William 37 by Adam J A Cass, Nov 23, 2001

by Adam J A Cass at La Mama, Nov 23 until December 2, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

It is puzzling why playwright/director, Adam Cass, chose to write this play based on Shakespeare's thirty-seven plays - puzzling mainly because it struggles to work as a piece of theatre.

Seven actors appear in Cass's ninety-minute narrative that involves numerous pseudo-Shakespearean themes including family, lovers, betrayal, patricide and some unseen terrorists.

The problem is that the narrative is incoherent and the form awkward.  The style keeps changing and the titles of scenes interrupt the flow of story.

The performers and director confuse shouting with passion. The actors do not lack commitment. All seven give the play their best shot.

However, characters are two-dimensional and display no genuine emotion. The actors are not connected to the text so they look uncomfortable and tense most of the time.

The story goes like this. Henry, a father and King (Ian DeLacy) is wounded but was evidently saved by Julia (Hayley Butcher) whose sister, Rebecca, (Vicky Fifis), is a prophetess of sorts.

William, Henry's son, (Lucas Wilson) craves the crown, marries Elizabeth (Justine Beltrame) and suffers the indignity of his father seducing her.

Confused yet? I still am. This is a valiant effort to create a new work that incorporates ideas and incidents from all the plays in chronological order. Each play warranted a two or three minute scene and was announced by the Prologue (Noni Bousfield) and Epilogue (Chris Molyneux).

It is a tall order to attempt to write a script that meets the level of its subject, the greatest English language playwright. Snippets of Shakespeare's own dialogue and poetry peep out of the play and shine. The audience clearly enjoys these references and quotations.

The design, by Paula Levis, is a clever and effective wallpapering of La Mama with enormous black and white printed text from Shakespeare's plays.

The soundscape, (Jeremy Collings) Anthony Pateras) it has some appropriate and interesting moments but is often too loud, intrusive and poorly placed.
More concentration on the central plot line before trying to feed the Shakespearean references into it might have helped the narrative but, as it stands, William 37 is convoluted and confusing.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 14 November 2001

Inside Out, Brunswick Women's Theatre, Nov 14, 2001

Inside Out Brunswick Women's Theatre Brunswick Mechanics' Institute
Nov 14 until December 1 , 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The development of new theatrical work with inexperienced actors can be magical. Inside Out, Brunswick Women's Theatre, is a work that resonates with personal stories of the eighteen performers. 

 Director, Nadja Kostich, makes a moving and provocative work with this group of local women, most of whom have never been on stage before.

This is not a narrative based play. It does not have a linear story. There are threads of the lives of Australian women from all parts of the globe: South America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia.

The thematic link is the home. The evocative design by Nina Sanadze incorporates countless window frames and a tiny doll's house floating downstage.

We hear snatches about family, childhood, love and child bearing. Some stories are melancholy, even tragic. Others are bright and hopeful. A Muslim woman, who appears only on video, proclaims in her broken but poetic English, " I can't believe I am freedom."

Kostich is masterly in her direction and nurturing of these women's input. She takes raw material and weaves a spell with it. The women trusted her with sensitive moments and personal revelations.

The form is abstract. The language is at times literal, at others lyrical.

Kostich employs a gestural language that takes advantage of repetition and symbolism to highlight moments in each woman's life. By creating a universal language and stylised representations of stories, we are able to see the threads that bind us rather than those that separate.

A moving monologue is from Maria Cabello talks about her epileptic, disabled son who only speaks to her through a hand puppet. A young woman talks about depression and suicide, a third (Lina Hassan) about escape from a violent regime. There is an eccentric and colourful scene by Julia Jeong who sings and gyrates as if in an Asian brothel.

The scene depicting a cluster of refugees knocking at our continental door is chastening given our recent experiences with boat arrivals.

Music is an intrinsic component of this production. Irene Vela, performs on guitar with the golden-voiced Linda Laasi and cellist Amanda Rowarth. The entire company of women sings but Sarah Clemens is one sweet voice amongst them.

The show has perhaps too many stories to tell and runs a little long. However, Inside Out is a fine example of community, devised theatre. Nadja Kostich must be commended for this sensitive and delightful work.

By Kate Herbert

Tuesday, 13 November 2001

Stones in his Pockets , Nov 13, 2001

By  Marie Jones
 Melbourne Theatre Company & Sydney Theatre Company 
at Fairfax Studio,  Arts Centre,  until 15 December, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

So often, the Irish are represented on screen as eccentric, cute and quirky. They must be bored to tears with it.

The desire to challenge these stereotypes may have been the motivation for Belfast playwright, Marie Jones, to write Stones in his Pockets.

Strangely, her characters are almost as stereotypical as those in the American 'fillums' that she parodies. It looks as if she wrote it to cater to the US thirst for Irish theatre, not to challenge it. This does not make it any less entertaining.

The residents of a village in County Kerry on the Atlantic coast of Ireland are paid forty quid as extras to add local colour to a movie. The Americans are vain, superficial and self-interested and the film seems comically reminiscent of the awful  Ryan's Daughter.

In this co-production with Sydney Theatre Company, actor, Garry McDonald makes his directorial debut. He keeps the pace swift, the laughs frequent and the stage almost empty.

Richard Roberts spare design hints at location with a slide of the Irish coastline and several film camera cases.

Actors, Greg Stone and Philip Dodd, play multiple characters and are successful in the greater part.

Their central characters, Jake ( Stone) and Charlie ( Dodd) are new to film. Both are losers who fantasise about making it in the movies and with the leading lady.

The movie system conspires to keep them in their places - at the bottom of the food chain and the food queue.

Stone and Dodd make a good comic duo, being physical opposites.  They people the stage with quaint characters, shifting gears in a beat, to change characters.

McDonald directs them as if in a dance as they weave a path from one personality to another.

Stone is delightful as the drunken old villager, Mickey, " 'last remaining extra from 'The Quiet Man.' " As Jake, he is the voice of the disenfranchised Irish. His spritely playing of Sean Harkin offsets the boy's tragedy.

Dodd, as Charlie, elicits our sympathy when he reveals his past and his dreams and his security guard, Jack, is a hoot.

There is some lack of definition in characterisation. Transitions between characters are sometimes blurry. Characters are generally  two-dimensional which is ironic given Jones' apparent intention to break the pattern of Irish representation.
Stones is a warm, amusing and charming play. However, its argument about the exploitation of the Irish is laboured by the end.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 7 November 2001

Beyond the Gate of Heavenly Peace , NOV 7, 2001

by John Ashton and Jian Guo Wu
La Mama at Carlton Courthouse until November 24, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The image of a Chinese student standing vulnerable and resolute in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square is indelibly printed on our common psyche. We are chillingly reminded of this event by video footage in this play.

The immigration to Australia of young people from Mainland China after the massacre is the theme of Beyond the Heavenly Gate, by John Ashton and Jian Guo Wu.

Four young Chinese arrive in Australia on student visas. Their fates and backgrounds comprise the spine of the narrative. 

In the capable hands of director, David Branson four actors, originally from China, Singapore and Indonesia, play the lives of immigrants in this timely story.

There are some problems to be ironed out in the form and structure of the play and in the performances, but its themes are compelling. When the emotional level of the acting deepens, the play is at its best. 

Zu Jihong's ( David Lih) rage at seeing his friend shot and Lu's (Fanny Hanusin) loathing of Australian hypocrisy are passionate moments.

Branson successfully edited the script from three hours to ninety minutes. The play is built on Wu's own experience as an immigrant and in the student uprising at Tiananmen where he was injured.

Ashton's performance poet background gives the script a lyrical and atmospheric language. This is enhanced by the traditional Chinese poems spoken by a Chinese 'coolie' from the 19th century goldfields. (Ron Morales)

The live, original music by Kelvin Tan, Nick Craft and Melissa Compagnoni  is evocative as is the video footage.

Wang Jun ( Warwick Yuen)plays a former soldier who shot  students at Tiananmen. His regret and shame bring him to Australia to find a new life. His friend, Zu Jihong, is an unrealistic, impractical  gambler. His sad fate is sealed. 

The frightening thread of the narrative involves Judy (Hanusin), the daughter of an influential Beijing family. She rips off new Chinese immigrants and uses her timid flatmate (Lorraine Lim) as her puppet. She despises Australians and capitalism. Ironically, she ends up a flourishing business manager. Her refugee application was a tissue of lies. 

The tragedy of the story is palpable. The struggle to survive and overcome adversity is strong. However, Wu does not stint on his criticism of those immigrants who manipulate and abuse their countrymen for their own gain.

By Kate Herbert

Sunday, 4 November 2001

A Midsummer Night's Dream , VCA Drama, Nov 4, 2001

by William Shakespeare 
VCA Drama School, Studio 45, 45 Sturt St Southbank until November 18, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The austere Victorian College of the Arts Drama School Studio 45, is transformed into a fairy forest at present.

The entry space, contrived as the Duke Theseus' palace, is rich, scarlet and gold. After the opening scene, the audience is moved to seats around the usually cavernous warehouse. The magic of theatrical illusion and design begins to weave its spell.

Set "realiser", Paula Levis, creates an ethereal wood with glittering, fairy-lit trees, falling leaves, rope swings and woody bowers. Sally Hitchcock's sheer cobweb fairy costumes are very sexy and apt. Sound designer (Lydia Teychenne) creates an evocative atmosphere and professional lighting designer, David Murray, lights the woods spectacularly.

Director of the show and Dean of the Drama School, Lindy Davies, secretes, under leaves, flimsily clad fairies brandishing torches in this magical space.

Davies keeps this romantic comedy moving at a swift pace. Each of twelve actors has a substantial role to showcase talents at this exit point from their three years of training.

As Fairy King, Oberon, Angus Grant is passionate and has a clear sense of Shakespeare's language. Alice McConnell plays a luscious Titania and is supported by a sexy, writhing band of fairies (Simon Aylott, Patrick Brammall, Jodie Harris, Rita Kalnejais, Catherine Moore, Peter Cook).

The much-loved wicked fairy, Puck, generally played by a male actor, is played by not one, but two women. (Kalnejais & Harris) They are both cheeky and impish in the role.

This doubling device is most successful in the scene where Puck must fool the two lovers, Lysander) (Aaron Halstead) and Demetrius. (Luke Mullins) who seek their lovers, Helena ( Luisa Hastings Edge) and Hermia. (Amanda Falson)

The production is charming and beautiful to watch. These students make Shakespeare accessible and comprehensible. Performances are particularly strong from Grant, Moore and Edge.

There are a few problems. Some characterisations bleed into others.

And the tradesmen, rehearsing their play for the Duke and his bride, are disappointing clowns. Much of the laughing arose from two actors (Aylott & Moore) simultaneously playing royals and clowns.

This VCA graduation production has one of the great assets of an acting school show: a large available cast, plenty of designers, production crew and fine staff to direct.

Company 2001 comprises twelve acting graduates: six men and six women. All display the burgeoning qualities of the well-trained pre-professional actor. Some are more compelling than others.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 31 October 2001

Lucky Stiff , Oct 31, 2001

Book & Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens Music by Stephen Flaherty
At Chapel off Chapel until  November 4, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

There is a corpse on stage throughout Lucky Stiff. Yes, a corpse. A live actor spends two hours playing dead in this US musical written in 1988 by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

Let me explain. In order to inherit six million dollars from his unknown American uncle's will, young Englishman, Harry Witherspoon, (Mark Doggett) must take Uncle Anthony's stuffed, dead body (Larry Hunter-Stewart) on a jaunt to Monte Carlo.

He is pursued by a peculiar collection of persons all after the money: Rita, the rapacious ex-girlfriend and accidental murderer of Uncle, (Pamela Shaw) Vinnie, her optometrist brother (Randall Berger) and a dogged young woman, Annabel, (Elizabeth O'Hanlon) supporter of a Dogs' Home.

This bizarre premise makes for really good comic business. Ahrens' lyrics and dialogue are witty and swift. Music by Flaherty derives from the US school of musicals. It is peppy and filled with singable tunes.

Rita's Confession song is a gem. The lyrics dip and dive through her complex and hilarious confession of theft, murder and blame. Shaw, a skilful and funny musical theatre performer, is delightful in the role of Rita, the over-dressed tart.

Doggett has a certain charm as the shy young shoe salesman and his light tenor voice is a treat.

As his love interest, Annabel, O'Hanlon gets all the best songs. Her Times Like This (...A Girl Could use a Dog) allows the relentless pace of this production to slow momentarily and her love duet with Doggett, Nice, is a sweet, romantic moment.

There are some cheering cameos from the chorus members, particularly Iain Murton and Greg Ross.

However, there is a tendency to over-acting and pushing the comic characters so that there is no room to breathe for an audience. But director, Luke Gallagher, keeps the pace swift. Scene changes are snappy, choruses are jolly and the choreography (Tamara Finch) is simple and effective.

The feature of this show is the musical director and sole musician, Nigel Ubrihien, He alone, on a grand piano at the side of stage, maintains the musical background and foreground of the show. He works like a Trojan and it pays off.

The show just needs to take a breath here and there.  

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 24 October 2001

Thank God for the Idiot Box, Oct 24, 2001

Cool Cat Cabaret
 La Mama at The Carlton Courthouse until October 27, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

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 themselves.

Director, Ella Filar devised Thank God for the Idiot Box with ten teens called Cool Cat Cabaret from Princes’ Hill Community Centre drama program. It is a cabaret and sketch comedy show that is genuinely funny.

It has some laugh-out-loud scenes, polished musical numbers, slick scene segues and a couple of poignant moments. Filar keeps the pace quick and the scenes short and funny.

These kids have keen powers of observation. Their absorption of popular culture is total. They have captured the essence of television shows including the syrupy pseudo intellectual teen soapy, Dawson’s Creek and the unquestionably silly Scream Test and Popstars.

The lead male from Dawson’s Creek makes us squirm with his politically correct statement, “I don’t believe the child within is gender specific.” Another keeps leaping on stage and announcing gleefully, “I’m gay!”

The outrageously deep and husky Scream Test host (Dylan Evans) takes us on scary trips inside an abandoned orphanage and a home for old Elvis impersonators.

The weather guy on the news cheers us with news that “the clouds have happy faces tomorrow”.

The actor-writers keep the parodies coming thick and fast. In one witty moment, a grandpa listens to a child cry and says, “ I wish I was teething.”

There is some very listenable live music played by Filar between scenes and as background to sketches. The opening song, written and performed by Luke Troyner,  is a very fine number with bass, violin and guitar in a Paul Kelly style. Troyner, is a classy presence on stage playing the “I’m gay! “ guy as well as a rap artist performing a song called “Bitch!”

There are  scenes about kids left at home alone, kids with drunken parents, loser mothers, no dinner and split families. So much for the happy family.

There is a peculiar convention in the latter half. A boy watching television alone, channel surfs with his remote control until finally he disappears into the screen. This is not resolved properly but could make a clever ending.

The closing musical number is a cheerful finale to a charming and cute show with some real teenage talent on stage.

Kate Herbert