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.
Miss Marple Mystery, adapted by Leslie Darbon from Agatha Christie
Comedy Theatre, Oct 31 until
Nov 17, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 31, 2013
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Nov 1, 2013 and in print on Sunday, Nov 3, 2013. KH
Judi Farr as Miss Marple
IF YOU love an Agatha Christie
murder mystery, this stage adaptation of A Murder Is Announced, her fourth Miss
Marple novel, will be just your cup of tea - or cup of poison.
This Australian production has all
the crucial Christie elements: an isolated country house, a parade of quirky or
pretty suspects, a couple of bloodless murders, oodles of red herrings, a
brusque detective, and the inimitable Miss Marple: elderly village spinster and
In Darren Yap’s production, Judi
Farr is a dainty, smart and unassuming Marple, capturing her watchful, cunning
gaze, polite intrusiveness, and insightful analysis of everybody's murky
Miss Marple is fortuitously visiting
the village of Chipping Cleghorn for her rheumatism treatment when a disturbing
notice appears in the local rag: "A murder is announced and will take
place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30pm."
By another marvellous stroke of
luck, sweet old Miss Marple is acquainted with Letitia Blacklock (Debra
Lawrance), owner of Little Paddocks, so she pops in for a cuppa just around the
time of the murder. Yes, there's a murder at 6.30pm.
Leslie Darbon's 1977 stage
adaptation of Christie's 1950 novel is old-fashioned, English-drawing-room
drama, with plenty of anodyne but witty dialogue, deliciously silly plot twists
and daft characters.
This Miss Marple is not as fey and
distracted as she is often portrayed; she does less knitting and does not
indulge her habit of judging criminal behaviour by comparison with naughty
characters in her own village of St Mary Mead.
Lawrance's Letitia is the epitome of
stately gentlewoman, Deidre Rubenstein's Dora Bunner is enjoyably batty and
mercurial, while Victoria Haralabidou is hilariously bouncy and bonkers as
Mitzy, the Hungarian maid with a persecution complex.
Robert Grubb is likeable as the
brusque, business-like Inspector Craddock, Carmen Duncan is suitably dim and
decorative as Mrs Swettenham, and the remaining cast play appropriately pretty
young things who are all suspects for various reasons.
A Murder Is Announced is
light-hearted fun that will appeal to Christie fans and those who like a good
yarn rather than an avant-garde, theatrical assault on the senses.
Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker, Belarus Free Theatre, Melbourne Festival Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Oct 24, 25, 26, 27, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sunday Oct 27 at 3pm Stars:***1/2 This short review was not for Herald Sun and is published only on this blog. KH
Although the style and form
of Minsk 2011 Belarus Free Theatre
is old-fashioned, episodic, political theatre that harks back to the 70s and
80s, it has something compelling to say.
Theatre in many former
Soviet countries lost its sharp, critical edge and underground status when those countries no longer suffered
political oppression; but this is not the case in Belarus where, according to
this production, political oppression is alive and unwell.
In this insane despotism,
citizens of Minsk are arrested, abducted or beaten on the street – by police or
skinheads – for attending peaceful gatherings, gay pride marches or simply
meeting in groups of more than three persons.
The performance depicts
individuals attempting to speak into a microphone then retreating in silent fear,
only to be abducted by skinheads while old women quietly sweep away any
Brad Sherwood &
Colin Mochrie in Live and Dangerous At Comedy Theatre,
Melbourne Oct 24 and 25, 2013
(NB: 2nd show added Friday) Reviewer: Kate Herbert (This review is not published in Herald Sun.) Stars: **** I improvised with Brad years ago in
Theatresports shows at BATS in San Francisco. Happy memories! KH
Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood
face is achin’ after laughing so hard at Colin
Mochrie and Brad Sherwood improvising their socks off in Live and Dangerous,
their two-man Improv Show.
If you are a late adopter of the US TV comedy
show, Whose Line Is It Anyway, you’ll know Colin and Brad and the
improvisational games that are the basis of their chaotic and hilarious stage
show. You’ll recognise a lot of stuff if you’ve ever seen
Theatresports on stage – or done a beginner’s drama class.
is delicious to witness two razor-sharp minds whirring as they conjure
characters, stories, dialogue and gags from thin air. This may look like
goofing around, but Colin and Brad’s skill and spontaneity are exceptional.
show is totally different and Colin and Brad – who are dead charming and
totally engaging – don’t know what the content will be, even if though know
which formats/games they will use.
Colin says at the start, “Let’s make some crap up!”
By Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Melbourne Festival Playhouse,
Arts Centre Melbourne Ep. 1 Oct 22; Ep.2 Oct 23; Ep. 3&4 Oct 24; Eps 1-4 Sat
Oct 26, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ** Review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed Oct 23, 2013 and probably later in print. KH
Life and Times, Episode 1
need to be prepared for, or to love theatre that is arduous, formalistic and
repetitive to make it through Episode 1 of Life and Times by Nature Theater of
Oklahoma, let alone all four episodes over 10 hours.
members started trickling out the door after 15 minutes and about a third were
gone after interval – not a good sign.
piece, directed by Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska, uses verbatim transcripts from
16 hours of rambling telephone conversations with one woman – a company member
– who chats and reminisces about her very ordinary life.
1 is about her early childhood which comes to life as a patchwork of fragmented
memories and stories about her family, friends, teachers and school, all of
which are set to cheesy music and sung as a poor man’s version of an opera.
is no spectacle here, only relentlessly repetitive, ear-aching singing, or
rather intoning, by a cast of six that comprises mostly non-singers, juxtaposed
against totally unrelated gestures and stylised choreography that mostly
involves bobbing up and down.
Written by Anna Jakoba Ryckewaert, by Ontroerend Goed Melbourne Festival Produced by Kopergietery/Drum Theatre
Plymouth/Richard Jordan Productions Fairfax
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Oct 19 & 20, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:*** Review also published by Herald Sun. KH
Anna Jakoba Ryckewaert
During All That Is Wrong, Anna Jakoba Ryckewaert
confronts a litany of uncontrollable, incomprehensible problems that surround
her: war, hunger, capitalism, fear, religion, sex, environment, and more.
If we allowed every awful event in the world to
penetrate our skin, the existential pain could be brutal and overwhelming – but
18-year old writer-performer, Ryckewaert (AKA Koba), pursues such discomfort during
The production highlights the internal,
psychological struggle of one young woman facing adulthood with trepidation,
trying to understand her place in the world and what she believes or values.
Armed with only white chalk, she fills an expanse
of blackboards on the floor with agitated, urgent scribblings, creating a
chilling mind-map of words, ideas and obsessions that fan out from the central
Although she speaks little, she reveals to us a
visual version of her identity, her relationship to her immediate environment
and the wider world, and her youthful search for meaning and understanding.
“I think too much – I don’t sleep well – Skinny –
Not anorexic”, she scrawls in shorthand about herself.
Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Festival Oct 16 to 27, 2013 Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: *** Full review below. I did not review this production for Herald Sun. KH
Kantor’s reimagining of King Lear depicts a bloody battle for mining royalties
and power, and a violent collision of wills in an indigenous community.
translocation of Shakespeare’s wrenching tragedy from an ancient, white man’s
world to a remote desert setting gives new resonance to the story of Lear (Tom
E. Lewis), an aboriginal elder, who hands over all his land rights, property,
power and wealth to two greedy, cruel daughters but disinherits his youngest
and most loyal.
translates Lear into an old man who trusts the old ways and mistakenly believes
that his older daughters value him more than they do his wealth. This error of
judgment leaves him and his mob (the band) homeless, penniless, disillusioned
and finally delusional as he roams the desert with his Fool (Kamahl Djordon
finds some poignant moments, particularly in Lear’s reunion with his exiled
Cordelia and as he grieves over her body in the final scene. Perhaps his most
moving moments is in a silent filmed scene where his distraught face and naked
chest simply portray Lear’s vulnerability and grief.
this production becomes the villainous Edmund’s play, with Jimi Bani portraying
Gloucester’s illegitimate son with ruthless manipulation and violence as he
ruins his brother’s reputation, seduces Lear’s two grasping daughters then
destroys his mother (Frances Djulibing). Bani’s performance is complex, nuanced
dialogue merges English, indigenous language and creole with snatches of
Shakespeare’s Elizabethan text to create a rich vocal landscape that makes the
indigenous characters vivid.
Arnhem Land locale is captured in projections of hot, red desert sunsets and
colorful footage of remote communities, houses and roving dogs.
Produced by Kopergietery/Drum Theatre Plymouth/Richard Jordan
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Oct 15 to 18, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: *** This review also published in Herald Sun online Wed Oct 16 and later in print. KH
Riot looks like a writhing mosh pit of youthful decadence. Be afraid, parents!
peculiar little show, performed by eight young people, is an in-your-face
theatrical expression of adolescent angst, rage, sexual experimentation and
total teen obnoxiousness.
by Alexander Devriendt, it is the second of a trilogy by Belgian company Ontroerend
Goed, and the title of the first play points to this show’s content – “Once and
for all we’re gonna tell you who we are so shut up and listen”.
tearaways shut themselves inside a small, grungy cell (or huge cupboard?) where
they indulge their obsessive self-absorption by filming the ultimate
Youtube-style “selfie” that is projected onto the outer wall for us to witness.
teenagers’ behaviour and secrets scare you, this show will send you screaming
to the doors because they do all the irksome, dissolute, dangerous things that
we suspect adolescents get up to in the absence of adults.
Kneehigh, Melbourne Festival Adapted from Noel Coward by Emma Rice Atheneaum Theatre, Oct 11 to 24, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **** Review also published in Herald Sun online on Sun,Oct 13, & in print on Mon, Oct 14, 2013. KH
Laura (Michelle Nightingale) and Alec (Jim
Sturgeon) in Brief Encounter
Fans of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter, a
romantic movie about an illicit affair, may think this stage version dilutes
the poignant drama with too much playful comedy – but it is hearty
Director, Emma Rice’s
adaptation takes an inventive theatrical leap from the 1945 film to the modern
stage, telling the story of hapless lovers, Laura (Michelle Nightingale) and
Alec (Jim Sturgeon), through cinematic projections, live performance, comedy
Alec and Laura are both
married with families, but their first, chance encounter in a railway station
cafe during 1938 leads to weekly meetings and then to a burgeoning, passionate,
but impossible love.
Nightingale and Sturgeon replicate
the studied, elevated acting style, refined vowels, romantic dialogue and very
English social reserve of Trevor Howard and Celia Johnston in the film, as they
step warily around each other until they are helplessly in love.
cunningly creates the illusion of Laura and Alec crossing from stage into film
when they step through the projection screen to magically appear inside the
on-screen train (film design: Jon Driscoll, Gemma Carrington).
By Nicola Gunn Melbourne Festival of Arts Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:****
also published in Herald Sun online on Fri Oct 11andin print later.KH
Nicola Gunn, Pic by Sarah Walker
I’m always a little bit
excited before a Nicola Gunn performance because she invariably surprises and
If you think artists are
self-indulgent idiots justifying incomprehensible work with impenetrable
psycho-babble you’ll love In Spite of Myself, in which Gunn satirises
performance art in irreverent, funny, eccentric and unexpected ways.
With her brazen parody,
Gunn takes the mickey out of art, ironically making the inaccessible more
accessible – and funny.
After giggling at her
living sculpture installation in the foyer, we enter the theatre where Gunn
launches into her acerbic satire, “Exercises in Hopelessness – Nicola Gunn
(1979 to present)”, a fictional retrospective about fictional art work created
by her fictional self.
Dressed with absurdly
elegant formality and wearing a silver-grey wig at a perilous angle, Gunn
introduces the exhibition/lecture as Susan Becker, the absurd epitome of
gallery curator/bureaucrat who doesn’t quite understand her subject.