Tag: tragedy


Thought-provoking art examines atrocity

By Scarlett Harris

The Columbine High School massacre of 1999 is a tragic watershed moment in school shootings—the one everyone refers back to—and that’s what Monash University Student Theatre (MUST) played on with their two-and-a-half-hour performance simply entitled Columbine.

Directed by recent NIDA graduate Daniel Lammin, Columbine uses interview transcripts from witnesses, articles written in the aftermath, and even a speech given by then-President Bill Clinton to shed light on the myriad feelings the massacre brought up for people the world over in a sort of doco-meets-immersive art amalgamation.


The ensemble cast, all dressed in blue jeans and black singlets, did a stellar job at—I wouldn’t call it acting, but—making the audience feel as opposed to just observing. Columbine was more like an art installation or a live think piece than a mere theatre production. The minimalist staging, lighting and costuming allowed for those in attendance to draw their own conclusions and ensured questions about Columbine, violence, the media, youth, parenting, religion, guns and pop culture were left on our lips as we exited the theatre. So much so that one doesn’t necessarily even need to watch what’s going on onstage; you can just close your eyes and open yourself up to the emotion.

Columbine also employs the use of the 1990s cult music the school shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, listened to (remember Marilyn Manson as scapegoat for their actions?) which was performed to rousing perfection. “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails was a revelation.

While the show did go a little longer than was ideal (props for the comfy seats, though, MUST!), with all the content that allegedly inspired Harris and Klebold and all that has been spawned from their actions, I dare say Columbine could have gone on forever. No doubt their crimes will continue to reverberate and affect ever more artists and their audiences.

Columbine runs from Tuesday 3rd to Friday 6th September at 7:30 at MUST Theatre Space, Campus Centre Building, Monash University Clayton. Tickets $18 full, $14 concession, $12 Monash Student Association members via msa.monash.edu.au/must or at the door (subject to availability).


Daring diva with a killer voice

By Christine Moffat

Isabel Hertaeg has a dream to be an operatic soprano, but she’s noticed that they don’t always have the best of luck.  Her theory is, if she can work out what keeps killing them off, she has some hope of surviving a role!

Death By Soprano

Hertaeg has serious soprano-envy, and this is a very good thing.  As a result, we were treated to a fabulous array of soprano deaths, without all those annoying tenors getting in the way to spoil it.

The show began with Hertaeg coming onstage as the tragic Ophelia, whose gory death details I won’t spoil.  Suffice to say, this reviewer’s sick sense of humour was switched on in the first three minutes of this show.  Once poor Ophelia is no more, Hertaeg outlines her approach: she will explain the A-Z of soprano deaths.  Accompanied wonderfully by Amy Abler, Hertaeg then starts her alphabetical annihilation with ‘A is for Avalanche’.

If it had gone wrong, this show could have turned into one big highbrow in-joke, with opera aficionados tittering away whilst the common folk looked on confused.  Instead, it turned out to be an intelligent concept, wrapped in a delightfully dark show, and decorated with Hertaeg’s wonderful voice.

The cute little prop jokes kept the comedy bubbling along, and the many, many deaths took care of the pathos.  Watch out for Brunhilde (a highlight), who ticks both the prop comedy and pathos boxes at once!

Although the show is a tragic comedy, with little quips sprinkled throughout, Hertaeg did not skimp on the opera.  Her performance of Butterfly’s aria in particular was intensely moving.  On top of being funny and having an amazing voice, Hertaeg also managed to sing in Italian, French, Russian, English and German.  I’m beginning to feel a little soprano-envy myself…

Show information:

Death by Soprano

Wednesday 20th March 2013

The Butterfly Club

Carson Place (just off Little Collins Street in the Melbourne CBD)



A beautiful tale of a terrible man

By Adam Tonking

Ad Nauseam, created by Tom Pitts and performed by Nick Bendall with Kate Laverack and Grace Travaglia, is the story of one rather unlikeable man and the drunken destructive path he cuts through one night in the city. But the story itself is only the beginning of this wonderful production.

Pitts’ text, one long rant, is almost poetic, reminiscent of those long-dead beat poets Kerouac and Ginsberg and through Pitts’ treatment of the language, transforms a gritty loathsome bender into something romantic and poignant.

His despicable narrator seems lost and forlorn, even while his actions paint him as an arrogant pig, somehow you want to be the one to save him. I did find the insertion of a few topical one-liners jarring and unnecessary, however they did receive the biggest laughs of the night. The text is performed in counterpoint with a score also composed by Pitt, and the interaction between the two beautifully underpins the ebb and flow of the piece.

Playing the part of this narrator, Bendall brings a rascally quality to the character’s unpleasant tendencies, charming the audience with his antics as opposed to repelling us. His physicality in performing this piece was a work of art, like mime bordering on dance, depicting the world and the people he interacts with through mere controlled movements and poses of his constantly working body, from delicate and beautiful to aggressive and masculine. Fascinating to watch.

Haunting him throughout the piece are the spectres of the two women who started him on this downward spiral, played by Laverack and Travaglia, who never speak a word, but manage to convey everything they need to through the movement of their bodies.

Ad Nauseam is a masterful work, using poetry, mime, dance, music, lighting – all the elements available to create a phenomenal, tragic and romantic piece. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

This production is showing at La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street Carlton, from Wednesday 21 March till Sunday 1 April, 6.30pm Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, 8.30pm Thursday and Saturday. Book at www.lamama.com.au or by calling 03 9347 6142.

REVIEW: April Albert is DIE KNEF

A tribute to a legend misses the triumph

By Adam Tonking

Die Knef, a cabaret written and performed by April Albert, traces the life of Hildegard Knef, a chanteuse whose survival of World War II coloured the rest of her career as a performer, but never held her back from her ambition.

Albert’s show is a brief insight into a relatively unknown figure in Australia, and showcases songs in a language that is too seldom celebrated outside of opera here.

Hildegard Knef, referred to by Albert as “the Edith Piaf of Germany”, was an actress and singer who enjoyed a long career spanning from the 1940s through to the 1970s. With Albert as Knef, Die Knef is at its most simple the story of one woman’s life, featuring the songs that made her famous.

But Albert presents it as a kind of nostalgia concert from a faded artiste you can imagine touring RSLs and pokies venues, and so Knef comes onstage with all of the pizzazz and charisma of a star, but gets distracted reminiscing about the many tragedies of her life.

Watching Knef unravel under the weight of her memories makes for fascinating viewing.

I had thought that a show containing entirely foreign language songs might present a challenge, but the audience quickly accepted the change and Albert seemed most comfortable when singing or speaking in German.

Although her commitment to the character is admirable, she rarely seemed to connect with the unimaginable horrors that Knef describes experiencing during World War II.

The script appears meticulously researched, peppered with pithy quotes for which Knef was well-known, but then focuses too heavily on these bad times, not on the successes that made her so famous and hence a character worth getting to know.

April Albert’s Die Knef was on at The Butterfly Club in South Melbourne from the 1st till the 4th of December at 7pm

For details of other upcoming shows, visit www.thebutterflyclub.com.