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.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival The Famous Spiegeltent, Arts Centre
Melbourne, until April 17, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **** Review also online at Herald Sun Comedy Festival. KH
The spin of a bingo ball dictates their repertoire but you’ll
still hear the thrilling, three-part harmonies and loony lyrics that
characterise Tripod’s musical stylings.
The Tripod trio (Scod, Gatesy and Yonny) spin a bingo ball
cage that spits out a numbered ball and they must then perform the
corresponding tune from their songbook that is titled 101 Hits.
According to Tripod, the term ‘Hits’ applies only loosely to
their original, quirky but not necessarily world-famous songs.
This show may be less structured than Tripod’s usually tight
program, but it is exhilarating for both audience and performers to nervously anticipate
what comes next and whether the trio will remember the lyrics or even the
The jam-packed crowd of die-hard Tripod fans at the
Spiegeltent hears an eclectic program ranging in style from lilting ballads to
up-tempo tunes, jazz, rock and country numbers.
Tripod’s songs startle and titillate the audience as they
tilt seemingly predictable tunes on their heads with mischievous lyrics and
bizarre narrative twists.
They start with number 12, Bubble Helicopter, the lyrics of
which Yonny can niftily alter to include Traitor Jim or any other character, it
Thank You, The Wheel, Number 99, is a clever jab at the technological
advances that changed our lives – to allow us to watch countless, stupid YouTube
Ode To An Alarm Clock is a cute, country music tune that the
lads wrote in an hour for a radio show, while The Blueprint is a wicked ballad
that takes the mickey out of hipster couples, their matching designer kids and
A short and hilarious highlight is the upbeat Fear of
Shorts, a song to warm the cockles of any man who just won’t wear shorts and fears
showing his legs in public, even if his girlfriend says he looks fine.
The guys sing plenty more Tripod toons but their audience
request, Ghost Ship, was a splendid finale to a really entertaining night with
Scod, Gatesy and Yonny who are now Melbourne institutions at the Comedy
Melbourne International Comedy Festival The Umbilical Brothers in Speedmouse Athenaeum Theatre, Collins St., until
April 17 (28 Mar & 4, 11, 15, 16, 17 April) Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ****
Review also in Herald Sun Com Fest reviews online on Sun March 27, 2016. KH
The Roadie in Speedmouse
Who knows why mime gets such a bad rap in comedy circles but
The Umbilical Brothers (David Collins, Shane Dundas) blend it with vocalised, environmental
sound effects to create physical comedy that inspires the imagination of young
In Speedmouse, Dave and Shane perform a parade of unrelated
sketches loosely linked by ridiculous transitions that are triggered by a
remote control that someone in the crowd is using to manipulate their
They warn us that the remote has functions that include the
usual fast-forward, pause, slo-mo and rewind, but also additional, absurd
buttons for insinuation, argument and porno. Look out Dave and Shane!
Using their physical and visual comedy talents, The Umbis dexterously
create the illusion of solid objects, exotic locations and quirky characters.
The two transform into creaking, raptor dinosaurs, do a
waggish audience Q and A with Schwarzenegger and then whisk an invisible, 4
year old volunteer on stage then into the air in a mime balloon.
They float under water or wander through a mime doorway into
a windy alien environment and we witness Dave as Olympic all-rounder, Trevor Spartacus,
who screws up his javelin toss, hammer-throw and shot put alike.
Dave drags his microphone all over his body and we simultaneously
hear the amplified gurgling and babbling noises of his gut, heart and finally,
the weird creatures inhabiting his head.
Shane, who is on a microphone off stage, provides all these
synchronised, vocalised sound effects.
They are joined on stage by the Roadie, a sinister, silent
and enormous clown, and by the off-stage voice of Tina, their bass baritone
The Roadie is a comic highlight as he torments Dave on and
off stage, switching off Dave’s microphone and refusing to do his bidding to
carry heavy mime objects on and off stage.
The Umbis have toured to 37 countries with Speedmouse and
this mischievous pair continues to titillate family audiences as they conjure
objects out of thin air.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival Cloak Room, Melbourne Town Hall, until Sat
April 16 (Saturdays only) Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:*** Review also in Herald Sun Com Fest review page on Sun March 27, 2016. KH
Justin Hamilton is a rambling philosopher comedian and inveterate
navel-gazer who muses on his own shortcomings and obsessions in his show, Hoot.
There are some hoots in Hoot, although the title refers less
to laughter and more to Hamilton’s childhood memory about... No spoilers.
Hamilton’s stage persona and style of comic delivery shift at
will from cheerfully chirpy to brusque, from vulnerable and insecure to abrasively
smug and a bit too pleased with himself.
His move from Melbourne to Sydney is a key topic, as is his personal
struggle with mild, floating depression that interferes with his life by
keeping him trapped inside his own head.
If this all sounds too dark, remember that comedy often emerges
from adversity or intimate revelations and Hamilton uses both.
After having a go at the familiar topics of exorbitant rents
in Sydney, breakfast shows and the pervasive virus that is reality television,
Hamilton tears a few strips off Warney and his new-found status on a celebrity TV
show and his kids’ charity.
Cue groans and claps from the audience.
A large chunk of Hamilton’s comic material is devoted to people’s
obsession with that other contagious virus called social media.
A big hit with the crowd is his rapid-fire routine that
tracks one idiot’s sleepless, 24-hour social media cycle as he (Is it
Hamilton?) tweets, likes, posts, rants and trolls his way through a day with no
real social contact except buying his lunch - then photographing it.
Hamilton’s very cool, funny and youthful mum’s antics are a
recurring topic while he also gets laughs from stories about his unconscious
jaywalking, computer rage and booking Uber cars.
But Hamilton’s longest and most serious musings are about a lifelong
devotion, from a distance and up close, to his musical hero, David Bowie and this
final material is a moving, albeit not necessarily funny tribute to Bowie and
Although his comic material and show structure need
tightening, Hamilton’s passion for Bowie is perhaps his most attractive trait
and shows this philosopher-comic in the most positive light.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival Comedy Theatre, until April
Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ****1/2
Review also in Herald Sun Comedy Festival web page today, Sat March 26, 2016. KH
It must be exhausting inside Wil
Anderson’s head during his new show, Fire at Wil, in which he delivers a
barrage of gags at the firing rate of an AK47.
Anderson’s head visibly vibrates
with barely contained energy as he hurtles through 70 minutes of cunningly
written comedy that illuminates current political and social issues with his
inimitable wit and intelligence.
His gags target lefty hipsters and
stuffy conservatives alike, but he begins with his lament over losing masses of
great, topical comedy when Tony Abbott, that goldmine of comic material
(onion-eating – say no more), lost the Prime Ministership to Malcolm Turnbull
Despite Turnbull not doing any ridiculous
stuff – in public, at least – Anderson still gets heaps of comic mileage out of
him, starting with Turnbull’s memorable quote, ‘There’s never been a more exciting
time to be alive’, an epithet Anderson reiterates throughout the show.
With exceptional comic skill,
warmth and audience engagement (or is it clever crowd manipulation?), Anderson challenges
the preconceptions and political views of his audience, tempering his jibes and
criticisms with non sequiturs and absurd links to giraffes giving birth.
He reminds us of our love of the Long
Weekend while challenging our views on Australia Day and the First Fleet or pointing
out the common ground between Republicans and Monarchists in this country.
‘We (humans) work together’, he
repeats, taking the crowd with him as he confronts us with issues about refugees
and boat arrivals, rampant and irrational racism, the ill- treatment of Adam
Goodes by football fans and a few sideswipes at Pauline Hanson, Andrew Bolt and
Anderson generates belly laughs
and giggles while craftily taking the crowd with him on a carefully structured
journey to some glimmer of awareness of the spectrum of views on crucial social
He zips between topics ranging
from Halal food to David Jones and terrorism, then to lunatics ranting on
Twitter and a rave about toasters.
Anderson keeps the audience on
side with cunning twists and turns, reincorporation and gentle ribbing, social
commentary and discreet targeting of individuals and issues.
Fire At Wil is an evening of huge
laughs from a consummate comic talent with a social conscience – if you can
keep up with his Eveready Bunny pace.
by Organised Pandemonium, Melbourne Comedy Festival Merlyn
Theatre, Malthouse, until April 17, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:**** Review also on Herald Sun Arts web page, Fri March 25, 2016. KH
Marcia Hines in Velvet
Marcia Hines singing 1970s Disco hits sounds good enough but the addition of
startling circus feats transforms Velvet from concert to cabaret spectacle.
directed by Craig Ilott with musical
direction by Joe Accaria, features a
series of musical, dance and circus acts threaded together by a slim narrative.
A geeky bloke (Brendan
Maclean) stumbles into a disco nightclub – loosely based on the hedonistic
Studio 54 in New York – where he is confronted by a seductive world of
glittering lamé, mirror balls and mildly transgressive behaviour.
commanding, elegant and voluptuous when she appears about 30 minutes into the
show singing Never Knew Love Like This Before when her warm, honeyed tones,
impeccable vocal control and bright timbre send the audience into paroxysms of
follows the crowd favourite, Craig Reid’s audacious, hilariously cheeky and camp hula hoop routine in which he wears tummy-hugging
pink and yellow lamé and whirls
hoops around his plump, sassy body to disco hit, Shake Your Groove Thing. He
looks like a human slinky!
reappears to deliver consummate versions of You, Enough Is Enough, It’s Raining
Men, Last Dance and other hits.
versatile voice complements Hines well in their duets and he engages the
audience with his passionate singing of If You Could Read My Mind, Thinking of
You and a poignant, solo version of Stayin’ Alive on ukulele.
Marcia Hines & Brendan Maclean in Velvet
Accaria’s disco mixing and drumming are highlights and the
singing chanteuses, Chaska Halliday and
Rechelle Mansour, are vivacious and
Köckenberger uses a cunningly new
context for a handstand act, depicting a bellboy balancing on suitcases while
he strips to disco hit, Le Freak.
Goh’s aerial acts are sensual,
graceful dances in the air while Stephen Williams, with his chiselled musculature,
defies gravity and human limitations on aerial straps.
narrative onto circus/cabaret shows is always a fraught business and, in the
production, the narrative, its related scene transitions and Maclean’s geeky
character with his awkward physicality and ham acting are weaknesses.
The S and M
club scene attempts to look raunchy but ends up a cheesy parody of bondage
while Maclean’s character emerges in feathers and lamé like an
escapee from Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Velvet is an exhilarating cabaret show that will titillate some and entertain
Here are the shows I am currently booked to review in Comedy Festival:
Velvet, Cabaret/Circus featuring Marcia Hines, March 24. (Review to hit blog and H-Sun Comedy Fest review site today.) Wil Anderson, Thurs March 25 (Review running March 26) Justin Hamilton Hoot, Sat March 26 (Review running March 27) Umbilical Brothers, Sat March 26 (Review running March 27) Tripod 101 Hits, Sun March 27(Review running April 1) Ongals, Wed April 6 (Review running April 7.) Twins - Rhonda Burchmore & Trevor Ashley, Fri April 8 (Review running April 1) I may also do: Putnam County Spelling Bee, Thurs March 31. K
Book by Dennis Kelly, Music & Lyrics by
Based onRoald Dahl’s
book Produced by Royal Shakespeare Company & Louise Withers, Michael
Coppel & Michael Watt Princess Theatre, Melbourne, until July 31, 2016 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert Stars: ****
This review also online at Herald Sun Arts on Thur March 17 & in print on Fri March 18, 2016. KH
The Musical bounds onto the stage in Melbourne in a flurry of books, bullies,
battleaxes and boofheads.
Tim Minchin’s cunning music and lyrics and Dennis Kelly’s book, the musical is
based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s novel about five year-old Matilda
Wormwood (Ingrid Torelli), a child prodigy with an alarming intellect and a
remarkable interest in reading classic novels.
crude, neglectful and stupid parents (Marika Aubrey, Daniel Frederiksen) loath
her braininess and send her to be tamed at the hellish Crunchem Hall, a
Dickensian school run by the thuggish Miss Trunchbull (James Millar) who
believes all children are maggots and are guilty of – well, everything.
ingenious, witty lyrics illuminate characters and nimbly advance the narrative
while his tunes include chants, anthems, big choruses and forlorn ballads.
standout songs are Miracle (My Mummy Says I’m A...), the rollicking opening
chorus, and Revolting Children, a boisterous, hilarious routine in which the
children join forces and rebel.
School Song is also enhanced by Peter Darling’s audacious choreography and
Matthew Warchus’ direction, with kids clambering acrobatically over a
prison-like iron gate.
obsession with books is embodied in Rob Howell’s eye-catching design comprising
enormous bookshelves and giant building blocks decorated with letters and
Torelli is a wonderfully precocious sweety-pie as Matilda, and she effectively
captures the poker-faced restraint of this neglected, unloved girl who is
determined to be a champion of books, justice and honesty.
Written by Deborah Bruce, by Melbourne
Theatre Company The
Sumner, Southbank Theatre, until April 9, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 10, 2016 Stars***
Review also published online in Herald Sun on Fri March 11, 2016 and in print thereafter. KH
Nadine Garner, Susan Prior, Katrina Milosevic- photo Jeff Busby
The MTC production of The Distance almost didn’t make
the distance on opening night when a technical problem plunged the stage into
darkness only 15 minutes after the show started.
shadows, the adroit and audacious cast, while maintaining their characters and near-faultless
UK accents, quipped about blackouts and, ‘Should we start from the beginning?’
until a disembodied voice announced the hitch was fixed.
appropriate in a play in which the characters’ lives and loves are riddled with
hitches, the central catastrophe being Bea’s (Susan Prior) sudden return to
England from Australia where she has abandoned her husband, Simon (Martin Blum),
and her two boys under five.
Distance, by UK playwright Deborah Bruce, challenges the assumption that all
women take naturally to mothering and Bea’s closest friends – bossy, new mother,
Kate (Nadine Garner), and single mum, Alex (Katrina Milosevic) – will not
accept Bea’s decision.
performances are accomplished, despite the limitations in Bruce’s writing and Leticia
domineering Kate, rather than the more obvious Bea, becomes the pivotal
character and Garner’s dynamic energy makes this bullying, judgmental, incessant
talker more sympathetic than could be expected of an initially dislikeable
Nadine Garner, Susan Prior, Katrina Milosevic- photo Jeff Busby
This improvisational format takes a story
from an audience member then expands, illuminates, elaborates and improvises it
into a one hour show that wanders to all kinds of places.
On opening night, the audient told a
childhood tale about spending time in her dad's garage where she and her
friends lay down in an old, wooden trailer, tipped it back and pretended they
had gone to parts unknown in space.
What followed was a series of episodic
scenes, songs, monologues that ranged from the wildly entertaining to the
A highlight was the ensemble’s depiction of the
grotesquely grinning, giant, moulded plastic Santa’s head (Jenny Lovell) that becomes grafted
onto a dad’s head (Rik Brown) at Christmas.
A dramatic, final monologue (Patti Stiles) paid tribute to dads who have passed away; it made even the cynical teary.
Performed by members of Impro Melbourne, the
show will be a different kind of hoot each week, so get along. KH
Media Release: 'Lugares (Places) is directed by Patti Stiles (International Theatresports™ Institute and Impro Melbourne’s co-Artistic Director) and features members of the Impro Melbourne Ensemble and very special weekly guests. The Spanish translation of ‘places’, Lugares is the result of collaboration at the Wurzburg International Improvisation Festival in Germany between Patti Stiles, Felipe Ortiz, Michael Kennard and Jim Libby and the show was further developed in Bogota, Colombia. Impro Melbourne is proud to debut this show in Australia.'
Tickets: $15 full | $10 conc. online and $20 full | $15 conc. at the door www.impromelbourne.com.au
Music by Jeanine
Tesori, book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, based on The Ugliest Pilgrim by Doris
Betts, by Blue Saint Productions Chapel
off Chapel, until March 20, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ****
Samantha Dodemaide & cast. Photographer: Ben Fon
It is 1964 and
an American televangelist and sham faith healer dupes a naive, young woman into
believing that he can heal her horribly scarred face.
From the age of 15, the titular Violet (Samantha Dodemaide) suffers not only the facial
caused by an axe blade but also the accompanying bullying and ridicule of people
in her small and bigoted North Carolina town.
In this spirited musical, the unsophisticated Violet embarks
on a road trip to the Oklahoma chapel – really a TV studio – of the television Preacher
(Jordan Pollard), seeking healing, a new face and a new sense of identity.
The talented ensemble, under Mitchell Butel’s assured and witty direction
with playful choreography by Amy Campbell and evocative design (set by Simon Greer,
lighting by Ross Graham), captures both the absurdity and tragedy of
The tight, six-piece band under Martine Wengrow’s accomplished
musical direction, delivers a musical feast (music by
Jeanine Tesori) that ranges from bluegrass and country tunes to gospel
and soul numbers.
Dodemaide embodies Violet’s
fragility and her feistiness and, through her impassioned performance, makes us
‘see’ Violet’s scarred face although the actor displays no actual facial
In Brian Crawley’s libretto (based on The
Ugliest Pilgrim by Doris Betts), Violet is the pivot of the narrative and Dodemaide
sings the role with commitment, passion and pain.
As Young Violet, Luisa Scrofani brings another
layer to Violet’s character, providing both her childhood backstory and vocal
Adapted by Tom Wright
from Joan Lindsay’s novel, by Malthouse Theatre Merlin
Theatre, Malthouse, March 2 until March 20, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:*** This review is also online at Herald Sun Arts and in print on Fri March 4, 2016
This stage adaptation
of Joan Lindsay’s compelling 1967 novel, Picnic
At Hanging Rock, initially captures the enigmatic quality of the story that
became part of Australian mythology after Peter Weir’s 1975 film version.
On a hot, St. Valentine’s Day in 1900, four schoolgirls
and their mathematics mistress visit Hanging Rock for a picnic but only one
hysterical girl returns after the others vanish while climbing the harsh,
In Tom Wright’s script directed by Matthew Lutton, five
schoolgirls narrate this unfathomable tale in Lindsay’s evocative, impeccably
crafted prose and conjure a parade of characters from the school and
The five actors inhabit multiple characters, a device
that heightens the sense of mystery and alienation and accentuates the illusive
nature of Miranda, the fair-haired, ethereal beauty who leads the expedition up
the Rock and whose name echoes hauntingly in our memory of the movie.
On a bare stage made even starker by Paul Jackson’s
lighting, Lutton does not attempt to depict the Rock itself but paints with
words locations such as the prim, English-style boarding school and the savage
At the start, the performers address the audience
directly but, as the baffling disappearance unfolds, they transform into
These include the preposterously haughty
headmistress, Mrs. Appleyard (Elizabeth Nabben), Michael, an Englishman enamoured
of Miranda (Amber McMahon), Sara (Arielle Gray), Miranda’s acolyte who missed
the picnic, Albert (Harriet Gordon-Anderson), the earthy local boy, and Irma
(Nikki Shiels), the dizzy heiress found unconscious on the Rock.
At fortyfivedownstairs, March 3 to 20, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:*** Full review also online at Herald Sun Arts today and in print later. KH
of hopeful Greek women of all ages migrated to Australia in the 1950s and 60s
and Taxithi – An Australian Odyssey weaves their personal stories among the spirited
songs of their distant homeland.
Helen Yotis Patterson, collected tales told by her Yiayias (grandmothers) and
other Greek immigrant women whose intimate stories were previously untold or
the warm and ebullient Yotis Patterson on stage to illuminate the lives and
music of these myriad women are the inimitable Maria Mercedes and newcomer, Artemis
Ioannides, all three of whom celebrate their own Greek heritage.
narratives include those of angry exiles, unwilling proxy brides, knowing
mothers, abused wives, hopeful girls, educated or unschooled women and deprived
immigrants seeking the promised ‘streets paved with gold’ in Australia.
performers, directed by Petra Kalive who shares their Greek background, deliver
stories, inhabit characters and perform songs with sincerity, commitment and
Patterson has a rich, bold vocal tone and feisty but motherly persona, Mercedes
brings dignity, elegance and a subtle, emotional vocal delivery while Ioannides
performs with youthful energy and a light-footed physicality.