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.
By Stephen Sewell,
Malthouse Theatre Merlyn
Theatre, Malthouse until March 8, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Feb 26, 2013 Stars: **1/2 This review was published in Herald Sun online on Wed Feb 27, 2013, and in print some time later. KH
There are certainly some
meaty issues about political and familial power relationships in Stephen
Sewell’s 1988 play, Hate, but the content is buried under repetitive dialogue
and relentless tirades from the five family members.
Despite the density of
the text, the performances from the cast are strong, particularly William Zappa
as John Gleason, the tyrannical, manipulative father, corporate giant and
Liberal party stalwart.
John summons to his
country home, his wife, Eloise (Glenda Linscott), and adult children, Raymond
(Grant Piro), the stockbroker, Celia (Sara Wiseman) the nurse, and Michael (Ben
Geurens) the layabout.
Even before his arrival,
John’s powerful, chauvinistic and rightwing presence is palpable as the
siblings seethe with rage and venom about their father’s treatment of his
Raymond rails about his
father’s deception and mismanagement of the family company, Celia blusters
about her choice to isolate herself from the business and her resentment and
hatred of her father, and Michael reveals his mistrust, sense of betrayal and
inability to commit to anything.
Meanwhile, Mother lives
in a state of cheerful denial and relentless positivity.
Stephens Green Street Theatre Beckett
Theatre, Malthouse, until March 3, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **1/2 Review in Herald Sun online on Sunday Feb 24 and in print after Feb 25. KH
challenging play, Pornography, does not refer to sexual pornography but to the
horrors of modern life: crime, violence, social isolation and dysfunction, and
the pervasive threat of terrorism.
This episodic play is set
against the backdrop of London during a week in July 2005 when several momentous
events occurred:the G8 Summit,
the announcement of the London Olympics, the Live 8 Concert, and the horrific
London bombings of July 7.
David Myles’ production
cannot compete with the original, superb version by Deutsches Schauspielhaus,
Hamburg, but it captures some of the intimate drama and turmoil in the lives of
eight people touched by the bombings.
The characters, whose
lives intersect superficially, appear in monologues and dialogues, but some are
more successful because of the unevenness of the acting.
Emma Chelsey is compelling
as the stroppy, troubled teen that stalks her teacher, gets into street fights
and loathes everyone and everything.
Jesse Velik is strangely
the most moving character, despite playing a train bomber, a sensitive,
well-spoken, young father who is addled but passionate about his campaign of
Tom Holloway, Mutation Theatre Theatreworks, until March 2, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:** Review in Herald Sunonline on Sunday FEb 24 and in print on Tues Feb 26 (TBC). KH
Nick Pelomis, Brendan Barnett, James Tresise
Love Me Tender, first produced in 2010, is not one of
Tom Holloway’s best plays and its post-dramatic, deconstructed script, and this
rather portentous production become annoyingly cryptic rather than evocative.
The script is episodic, fragmented, intermittently
poetic, abstracted, topical or witty, with a purported referencing of Euripides
Ancient Greek play, Iphigenia in Aulis, in which Agamemnon sacrifices his
daughter to the Gods to receive a wind to blow his ships to Troy.
There is no linear narrative in Holloway’s text, but
there are themes, characters and some elements of story and, although we do not
expect resolution in this style of play, the thematic links and references
don’t pay off and the outcome is ultimately profoundly unsatisfying.
The Father (Brendan Barnett), a
firefighter, first grapples with the messy birth of his baby daughter (or is it
a baby deer?), then with his ensuing, intense love, protective impulse and a
suggested, more sinister, sexualized relationship with her.
Intercut with his struggle to express his love, are
the Mother’s (Sarah Ogden) emerging
fears and search for answers and reassurance.
More naturalistic scenes and monologues are
interspersed with abstracted dialogues that
capture the Father’s struggle to articulate his inchoate feelings and memories
through faltering, repetitive speech that is prompted and shaped by the Chorus (Nick
Pelomis, James Tresise).
Review published in Herald Sun online on Sunday, Feb 24, then in print after Mon Feb 25 KH
Vika Bull Photo by Chrissie Francis
It is astounding that
American singer, Etta James, not only survived her chaotic, drug-addled life,
but her distinctive vocal style became a major influence in Rhythm and Blues,
Rock and Pop music.
Australian singer, Vika
Bull, known as part of a duo with her sister Linda, sings Etta’s music with
passion and commitment, and narrates Etta’s turbulent life story in this
However, there is a
missed opportunity to make this show more than just a concert with awkward
introductions to songs.
Bull is accompanied by
The Essential R & B Band, a tight, seven-piece ensemble, led by John McAll,
that brings blistering brass, guitar, keyboards and rhythm section to Etta’s
Bull’s voice has a
powerful, bright, brassy upper register that does justice to Etta’s songs,
although she cannot replicate the idiosyncratic, smoky quality and dark,
heart-rending undertones of Etta’s vocal style that echoed Etta’s hectic
lifestyle of booze, weed, pills and the needle.
Dans La Maison (In
the House) by Francois Ozon Alliance Francaise French
Film Festival Preview Palace
Cinemas from March 6 -24, 2013 Palace
Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth Cinemas &
Kino Cinemas Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:****
This is not
a Herald Sun review. KH
Dans La Maison (In the
House), a film by Francois Ozon that is featured in the Alliance Francaise Film
Festival, is an intense, domestic thriller that tantalises the audience with an
unsettling and unusual sense of menace.
jaded, high school literature teacher, Germain, played by the compelling
Fabrice Luchini, becomes a mentor for a teenage student, Claude, (Ernst
Unhauer) who is writing regular instalments of disturbing material about his
voyeuristic visits to a schoolmate’s family home.
Claude writes from his personal observation with scathing bluntness and an
underlying layer of threat and his material shifts from non-fiction and
creative non-fiction to fiction and character assassination.
tempts and trains Claude with different writing styles that are informed by the
suggestions and classical literature.
Because of his work with
Claude, Germain’s work life unravels, as does his seemingly stable home life
with his cool, elegant wife (Kristin Scott Thomas).
This is a riveting movie
that explores the heart of writing and literature, the soul and purpose of an
artist and teacher, the mentor-student relationship, and the dangers of a
writer using the lives of those around him as research material.
Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
Opening night: Wednesday 13 Feb 2013 at 8pm
8 Feb to 23 March 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on
Sat Feb 16 Stars:***
This is not
a Herald Sun review. KH
Alison Bell & Leon Ford. Photo by Jeff Busby
In Nick Payne’s play,
Constellations, we observe like voyeurs as Marianne (Alison Bell) And Roland
(Leon Ford) engage in a series of short scenes that depict myriad, possible
permutations in their relationship.
Marianne, a quantum
physicist, meets Roland, a bee-keeper, at a friend’s barbecue and their unlikely
romance unfolds in what Marianne the physicist would describe as “the multiverse”
in which we all exist in parallel universes simultaneously.
Each different choice,
attitude, word or approach that they make, steers the relationship in a
different direction. Scenes dovetail into each other as the lovers repeats
their meeting, an argument, a separation, a diagnosis and a tragic ending.
Payne’s dialogue is well observed
and witty, and his scenes are entertaining and the final revelation is painful.
Bell and Ford explore,
with fluidity and energy, the range of emotions of the couple and they meet the
challenge of the shifting scenes and attitudes.
The style, however, looks
less like a fully developed play and more like a series of acting exercises or
an improvisational workshop to develop characters during a creative development
for a play. The repetition simply becomes predictable.
Movie review Anna Karenina, based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy Directed by Joe Wright Screenplay by Tom Stoppard
I reviewed this movie at a Media Preview provided by Universal Pictures. This review is not for the Herald Sun. KH
Joe Wright’s production of Anna Karenina is
sumptuous and exotic, filling every frame with vivid colour and painstaking
period detail evoking Imperial Russia in 1874.
Tom Stoppard’s inspired adaptation of
Tolstoy’s renowned, romantic but tragic novel, draws on his background as a
writer of stage plays by stylising and theatricalising the dramatic narrative.
Scenes begin as theatrical episodes set on
a 19th century, proscenium arch stage and, between scenes,
characters stroll along the precarious, wooden gantries above the stage, echoing
the artifice and deception of the aristocratic society of Moscow and St.
The scenery is composed of painted
backdrops and theatrical props, and dancers populate ballrooms and inns alike
with complex choreography or frozen, stylised tableaux.
These artificial scenes bleed into
realistic, elaborate interiors of the cities and the frozen landscapes of the
Russian countryside with bold invention.
With Sarah Greenwood’s luscious production
design and Stoppard’s imaginative script, Joe Wright creates a visual feast.
The major problem with Jo Wright’s
direction is that the intense emotion of Tolstoy’s novel is diluted so that we
skate across the surface of the anguish and despair that should leave us
weeping at Anna’s final demise.
Keira Knightley has a fine featured,
delicate beauty of Karenina, but she is acting by numbers, her expressions and
exclamations being contrived and mechanical and, ultimately, predictable and
annoying. One can’t help but crave the subtlety of the young Francesca Annis in
the BBC version.
Adapted by Elizabeth Freestone, Feargal Murray and Camille O’Sullivan
Music composed by Feargal Murray and Camille O’Sullivan
Sumner Theatre, MTC, Jan 31 to Feb 10, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review appeared online for Herald Sun on Monday Feb 4 and in print on Tues Feb 5.KH
Camille O'Sullivan. Photo by Keith Pattison
The Rape of Lucrece is a
thrilling, superbly crafted, theatrical jewel, not only because of Camille
O’Sullivan’s compelling, impeccably wrought and poignant performance, but also
because of its direction, songs, design, lighting and Shakespeare’s glimmering
With house lights still
on, O’Sullivan, wearing a heavy, dark overcoat, strolls humbly onto the stage
with her pianist, Feargal Murray, and chats to the audience, establishing the
easy rapport of a cabaret performer.
This casual introduction bleeds
almost imperceptibly into Shakespeare’s tragic, narrative poem as the lights
dim and we embark on the inexorable path of the Ancient Roman tale of Lucrece,
the virtuous wife of Collatine, a Roman aristocrat, and her violation by
Tarquin, son of the Roman King.
O’Sullivan, an Irish
cabaret performer, sings about half of the poem in a style influenced by torch
songs, chants, laments and recitative and Murray’s restrained and evocative
piano underscores most of the narrative.
The remarkable, unpretentious
O’Sullivan evokes three characters: Narrator, Lucrece and Tarquin, through
Shakespeare’s complex, lyrical language, delivering it in both song and
dialogue, with splendid timing, subtle physicality and perfect comprehension of
its layers of meaning.
White, Melbourne Theatre Company Playhouse,
Melbourne Arts Centre, Jan 31 until March 2, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **** ½
Version of this review published in Herald Sun in print and online on Monday Feb 4. KH
Catherine McClements & David Roberts: Photo by David Parker
Sharr White’s play, The
Other Place, is a complex, poignant drama that challenges both actors and
audience with its issues about early onset dementia.
Catherine McClements is
exceptional as Juliana, a renowned geneticist whose research produced a drug to
combat the brain degeneration of dementia.
McClements balances Juliana’s
brittle, cruel and cool style with her irrational raging, her confusion and
unwillingness to accept her own creeping illness that she presumes to be brain
In a series of cunningly
interwoven scenes, we witness several phases of Juliana’s life: presenting her
research to a medical conference, visiting her neurologist, arguing with her
husband and dealing with her teenage-runaway daughter.
David Roberts is
sympathetic and vulnerable as Ian, her beleaguered husband who struggles to
accept and manage his clever wife’s erratic behaviour and rage.