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 Bertolt Brecht, translated by Tom Wright, by Malthouse Theatre Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, July 2-20, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ** Full review also published online on July 14 and in print in Herald Sun. KH
Bertolt Brecht, wanted audiences to leave his plays feeling ready to change the
world, but I left The Good Person of Szechuan wanting to bark at traffic.
That may sound like an
odd and confusing response but wait until you see Chinese director, Meng
Jinghui’s rather addled production of Brecht’s play.
preceded Jinghui’s arrival as he is regarded as an innovative director in
China. But, despite the talented cast desperately trying to make it work, the disparate components fail to make a
coherent whole and it is ultimately chaotic, shambolic, outmoded and unsatisfying.
Brecht wrote political
parables that challenged the audience to think about corruption, greed and the
absolute power of tyranny, and Good Person is one such play.
When three gods
(Genevieve Morris, Genevieve Giuffre, Emily Milledge) come to earth to judge
the morality of humanity, they enlist the help of the water carrier, Wang
(Richard Pyros), to find one good person, a nigh impossible task in the
mean-spirited town of Szechuan.
Wang finds only one such
person, Shen Te (Moira Finucane),
a prostitute with a generous spirit. However, when the gods reward her with
money to start a tobacco shop, Shen Te discovers that wealth attracts cheats,
spongers and thieves.
By William Shakespeare, by Bell Shakespeare Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne, July 2-12, 2014
I am not reviewing this for Herald Sun but have made a few belated notes on the production. KH
Henry V in rehearsal
This production is an interesting take on Henry V. A group of schoolkids rehearse the play in a London bomb shelter during World War Two.
The conceit works for the first 40 minutes but then it palls when the childish playfulness and light voices of the young men diminishes the gravity of Henry's assault on France.
The novelty of the interpretation wears off and we crave some truth and depth in the depiction of such a brutal and senseless war. KH
From Bell Media Release: Damien Ryan will direct his first mainstage production for Bell Shakespeare. (Henry V is) A tale about a king who unites a nation with his eloquent words and ideas, his triumphs and humanity... Ryan’s contemporary take is inspired by a true story; for 71 consecutive nights during the Blitz in 1941, a group of boys stuck in a bunker started a ‘Boy’s Club’, where they would rehearse a new play each week, including Shakespeare’s works and then perform it for the other people in the shelter. 2014
Music & Book by Claude-Michel Shönberg Dramatisation
& French Lyrics by Alain Boublil & Jean-Marc Natel English lyrics
by Herbert Kretzmer Adapted by Trevor Nunn &
John Caird; Adapted from novel
by Victor Hugo A Cameron Mackintosh production, Michael Cassel Australian Producer Her
Majesty’s Theatre, from July 4, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: TBC I will review this after I see the opening on Thursday, July 3, 2014 in Melbourne. KH
Photos below are not from Melbourne production
Les Misérables is set in early 19th century
France (post-French Revolution) in the years before and during the Paris Uprising and revolutionary upheaval. Jean Valjean (Simon Gleeson), is French
peasant who seeks redemption after serving nineteen years imprisonment
for the theft of a loaf of bread. He jumps parole and is pursued
relentlessly by Javert (Hayden Tee), a police officer.
A Singer Must Die by Melissa Langton Melbourne
Cabaret Festival 2014 I reviewed this show last year and it is great. See previous full review from Sept 25, 2013 below. The original blog entry is here: http://kateherberttheatrereviews.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/a-singer-msut-dieand-other-bedtime.html
A Singer Must Die...And
Other Bedtime Stories, by Melissa Langton & Mark Jones
Chapel, Sept 24 until Sept 29, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
In her intelligently
structured and irreverent solo show, A Singer Must Die... and other bedtime
stories, Melissa Langton explores songs from the dark side – tempered with plenty
of black comedy.
is an audacious, impressive music theatre/cabaret performer and this production,
directed by her equally accomplished partner, Mark Jones, showcases her
She opens with Leonard Cohen’s A Singer Must Die, a bleak
but witty tune that features a disenchanted singer who laments, “I’m sorry for
smudging the air with my song.”
I missed this show but keep an ear out for this
terrific cabaret team at a later date. KH
their Media Release:
Beautiful Losers are back
with their heart-warming celebration of humanity at its most depraved.A toe-tapping horror show of serial killers,
underachievers, dog handlers, emotional cripples and pre-school carers."
By Matthew Mitcham, Nigel Turner-Carroll & script by Spanky Melbourne Cabaret Festival Chapel off Chapel, June 20,
21 & 22, 2014 only Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***
Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Mon 23 June, 2014 and later in print. KH
Olympic gold medallist, Matthew
Mitcham’s autobiographical cabaret show relies primarily on Mitcham’s celebrity
and his intimate confessions, rather than on his musical ability.
Twists and Turns is a
peculiar hybrid of styles and content that incorporates quirky, old-fashioned
tunes with pop songs, combines ukulele with piano, and accompanies Mitcham’s
personal revelations with a very weird alter ego wearing drag (cabaret icon, Spanky).
Directed by Nigel
Turner-Carroll with a script by Spanky, the show is based on Mitcham’s tell-all
autobiography that maps the trajectory of his diving career, his coming out as
a gay athlete, and the crippling self-doubt, depression and drug abuse that
Although, initially his
performance looks awkward, Mitcham’s ebullient personality charms the audience
that clearly identifies with his stories.
The structure of the show
is linear and unimaginative, with dialogue that is often over-written and,
particularly in the early scenes, littered with tacky, sexual innuendo and
adolescent gags about toilet paper.
Close and Reasonably Personal, written by James Millar Melbourne Cabaret Festival Chapel off Chapel, Prahran, June 20
& 21, 2014 only Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **** Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Mon 23 June, 2014 and later in print. KH
The timbre and tone of Amanda
Harrison’s voice is thrilling and spending a night Up Close and Reasonably Personal with her is to be treasured.
anyone else, like me, been
holding her breath waiting for Harrison to reappear on a Melbourne stage?
With her flashing dark eyes, sassy presence and
remarkable, soaring top register, Harrison is the ultimate musical theatre diva
that Australia adored as Elphaba, the green witch in Wicked.
In this playfully confessional cabaret, she shares
the cruel truth that a music theatre star’s life is far from glamorous and that
she is pitied by loved ones for her poverty and frequent joblessness.
Witty, revelatory banter, written by James Millar,
links Harrison’s repertoire of songs that ranges from cheerful to challenging,
all accompanied by her inimitable musical director, Bev Kennedy, on piano.
Harrison reveals that, despite her apparent diva
status, she shops at Target, wears tracky pants when at home with her children,
and barely hides a seething resentment for the industry that chewed up her life,
and for Wicked, the show that nearly ruined her voice.
Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, St Kilda, until July 12, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published in Herald Sun online and in print on Tues June 17, 2014. KH
Cole Pics by Jodie Hutchinson
on stage, Kate Cole grabs the audience by the throat and doesn’t let go until
the end of George Brant’s monodrama about a former fighter pilot who is demoted
to flying drones.
years as a US Air Force ‘rock star of the skies’ flying F16s in the Middle
East, this unnamed pilot fall pregnant, takes leave to marry and raise her
little girl; but she craves the blue skies and adrenalin rush of flying.
she returns to work three years later, she is appalled to find that she is
grounded and assigned to 12 hour shifts at a desk in Las Vegas from which she
remotely pilots a drone over the Pakistan desert.
this arrogant, manic woman, Cole prowls the
tiny space like a caged tiger, with her energy barely contained, her teeth
gritted and eyes blazing with frustration at her incarceration in this grey
bunker, far from the real action of Pakistan.
self-narrates this elite pilot’s story, posturing
like a rock star as she proudly relives her years as an elite pilot and describes
the joyful camaraderie of being ‘one of the boys’.
Music by Richard Rogers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II Based on novel by Margaret Langdon Princes Theatre, Melbourne, until Aug 31, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2 Review also published online in Herald Sun and in print on News pages June 13. KH
ALL PHOTOS BY JOE CALLERI
In an exotic and sumptuous display of crimson and gold finery, Rodgers’
and Hammerstein’s enormously popular musical,
The King and I, bursts onto the Princess Theatre stage with its parade of
memorable and singable tunes.
musical is based on a 1944 novel inspired by the memoir of Anna Leonowens,
British governess to the King of Siam’s children during the 1860s.
As part of his plan to modernise Siam
(Thailand), The King of Siam (Jason Scott Lee) invites Anna (Lisa McCune) to educate
his numerous children and wives about Western customs and the English language.
Anna argues persistently with the King about
her contract that forces her to live in the palace, about his outmoded views,
his treatment of his slaves, and the ‘kowtowing’ that compels all his subjects
to bow deeply before him.
Scott Lee and McCune make the most of the
conflict between the King and Anna that is heightened by the unspoken but
palpable attraction between the two characters.
They express the hidden love between the pair in
Shall We Dance? when they perform a lively but intimate polka during which
McCune glides gracefully as Anna, and Lee gallops gleefully like a playful
puppy as the King.
By Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner & Rob
Sitch Melbourne Theatre Company Playhouse, Arts Centre
Melbourne, until July 5, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:*** Saw this last night. Full review now below and also online at Herald Sun. KH
Erik Thomson (James Bickford, President USA), Nicholas
Bell (Bob, White House Chief of Staff)Pic Jeff Busby
If you are expecting The
Speechmaker to be a scathing satire of US politics you will be disappointed,
because its comedy is far less penetrating.
The script employs a
certain comical cynicism, but it looks like farce or extended sketch comedy,
which reflects the background of writers, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob
Sitch, who are renowned for their clever, television comedy shows.
However, the play lacks
the complex layers and corrosive, political commentary of the extraordinary UK
satire, The Thick Of It, which mocks the British government so blisteringly, or
the incisive character observations of Max Gillies or John Clark.
President, James Bickford (Erik Thomson), boards Air Force One with his
entourage of fawning micro-managers after his Christmas speech, styled by a
reality TV director (Toby Truslove), starts trending on Twitter.
board, the President’s image machine takes flight as his advisors devise
increasingly mad and manipulative ways of elevating his status, until the
Defence Secretary (David James) and his professorial Under-Secretary (Lachy
Hulme) reveal the most bizarre and, until now, secret strategy.