On Here We All Are. Assembled: “Matt Scholten brings with him a keen sensitivity to the Shakespearean language of the play. Much of Kathryn Ash’s dialogue has a marked Shakespearean flavour. Now and then, a line we recognise as a quotation pops out, but the quotation we are expecting to hear turns on its head with a twisted logic…Scholten has succeeded in having his actors make it sound just right – neither over-the-top Pommy, nor false ‘elocutiony’. There is also his close attention to detail throughout in matching the changing moods of the play to the ongoing decay all around, through lighting, sound, and his use of the acting space on the set. The symbols of decay – the fish, the grinding of gears as assembled parts disassemble – these are nicely pointed.

While it takes a spectator who is well acquainted with Hamlet and the devices of the modern theatre to take in the total impact of the play, Scholten kept the laughs coming at just the right intervals to amuse even the least experienced theatregoer…Yes, the audience on opening night enjoyed the play immensely to judge by the thunderous applause at the end. It is a rare treat to be able to attend a play so full of wit and repartee. Take the chance to see it while you can.” Glyn Davies, Arts Hub 2017

On Mother:Hazlehurst gives an authoritative performance, steeped in vulnerability; never collapsing into easy sympathy or the opposite. It might be a dance of despair, but Hazlehurst gives full play to Keene’s black comic observations and draws out a complex dramatic tension between abjection and agency. Matt Scholten directs with the sure-footedness you’d expect from his long collaboration with Keene. Audiences around the country should jump at the chance to see Hazlehurst perform in this haunted, confronting work.” Cameron Woodhead, The Age 2015

Mother is a tough, funny, poetic, tragic, unsentimental 70 minutes in the company of Christie, a cranky, sardonic woman who might not be as old as circumstances have made her. Hard times, past nightmares and too much booze have made her unsteady on her feet but clear-eyed and unimpressed by the society that has discarded her. Got up in discarded clothes that have not quite fallen apart yet and grubby as a newly-dug potato, Christy is surrounded by meagre belongings that can barely be distinguished from the detritus of city streets. (Set and costume design: Kat Chan, lighting design Tom Willis.) After yelling at noisy crows that seem intent on mocking her (beautiful sound design: Darius Kedros), Christie begins to tell her story – of acidic conversations with her husband Lenny that ripple and run like a tributary of Joyce. Matt Scholten has a long, rich history with Daniel Keene and has also previously directed Hazlehurst and clearly understands the nuances and rhythms of the work and has the confidence of the performer. The result is a seamless, fragile, intelligent and tough performance from an actress at the top of her game. Hazlehurst’s is a performance not to be missed.” Diana Simmonds, Stage Noise 2016

“In a tour de force one-woman show Hazlehurst offers a towering glimpse of a misunderstood and grievously wronged mother, her struggle for survival, her pain, the consequences of her choices, and her cry for recognition. Mother is superbly written, brilliantly performed and sensitively directed. It offers a rare opportunity to see Hazlehurst live on stage. Not to be missed.” Peter Wilkins, Sydney Morning Herald 2016

“Noni Hazlehurst plays the role of Christie with an uncompromising conviction but still shows the warmth of a needy human being underneath the tough exterior. It’s a beautiful and memorable performance. You’re almost unaware of Matt Scholten’s direction of the play but that is one of its strengths. It is never theatrical in its approach, allowing the actress to move and perform with great naturalness. Set, costume and props by Kat Chan, although deceptively simple have obviously been carefully thought out and are very effective. The sound by Darius Kedros is particularly well-designed and atmospheric and it’s all complemented by a nicely shadowy lighting design by Tom Willis. A good play should give you more than just entertainment. This one leaves you thinking deeply about life, love and compassion.” Len Power, Canberra Critics Circle 2016

On The Tempest: “Matt Scholten’s production of The Tempest is a big, ambitious attempt that makes no effort to cut down or modify the script for modern audiences. If you’ve never seen a Shakespeare play before, it might be worth flipping through the script before you go – but for those already familiar with The Tempest, Scholten puts on an absolute delight. The magical nature of the storm is represented by Prospero splashing about in a wading pool at centre stage and rocking a paper boat to and fro. It’s a scene that could easily be rendered ridiculous, especially by a young student cast, but the impressively-bearded Tom Gutteridge pulls it off with genuine drama. Gutteridge’s performance as Prospero is one of the stronger points of the production. He comes across as capricious but well-meaning; a bitter man, with perhaps a little too much power for his own good, but in the end kind-hearted. Likewise, Prospero’s magical servant Ariel – played by Felicia King – is magnificently done. King’s Ariel is fundamentally alien: she hops around the stage in strange leaping steps and sidles, staring deer-like at the humans around her. However, it would feel like a very long play – two and a half hours, including a twenty minute interval – without the comic relief of Trinculo and Stephano, played by Jess Newman and Josiah Lulham. Newman plays Trinculo as a wheedling coward that evokes Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean, and Lulham’s Stephano comes across as a slightly less impressive Jack Sparrow (right down to the touch of mascara). Newman and Lulham riff off each other well. All in all, Scholten’s The Tempest is a spectacle as well as a play. Between its dance scenes, musical interludes, and physical comedy, the two and a half hours passes very quickly” Sean Goedecke, Weekend Notes

On The Heretic: “Richard Bean’s writing provides laughs all the way through, delivered by excellent performances from Noni Hazlehurst as Cassell and Anna Samson as brilliant-but-damaged Phoebe…a satisfyingly witty and thought-provoking production.” Andrew Furhmann, Time Out 2012

“Hazlehurst, as Diane, is a refreshingly still point amid frantic characters as she wrangles her explosively dysfunctional, intellectually gifted daughter, Phoebe (Anna Samson), her obsessive Greenie student, Ben (Shaun Goss) and her ambitious colleague and ex-lover, Kevin. Bean’s writing is impudent, satirising all players in the climate change debate, from academics who manipulate data for funding to eco-terrorists who threaten anyone who disagrees with them. Director Matt Scholten and his capable cast keep the arguments clear, the comedy swift, and the comical characters heightened and engaging.” Kate Herbert, Herald Sun 2012

On Boxman: “It’s s a tour de force. Given the dense passions Yeboah dances over – the authority, the enchantment, and the wrenching pain he radiates – he’s an actor I’ll be itching to see play Othello until he makes the attempt. Having watched Yeboah assay Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, he’ll need to be as sedulously directed as he is here by Matt Scholten. An extraordinarily moving work, it would be a crime not to tour this show, or at least plan a return season.” Cameon Woodnead, The Age 2011

On Crossed: “Matt Scholten’s production converts the Courthouse into a spectral traverse. Intense, physical performances consume the space…I’ve never seen the interface between flesh and technology, and its dysfunctional potential, invested with such flensing honesty and power.” Cameron Woodhead, The Age 2011

“Chris Summers’s Crossed was the second of two plays by this promising young writer to premiere within weeks of each other. It consists of five intersecting monologues, all revolving around the same traumatic event – the police shooting of “the smiley-faced boy” – which loosely recalls the fatal shooting of a 15 year old boy in Northcote in 2008. It’s hard to imagine a better production, done in traverse in La Mama’s Courthouse Theatre under the direction of Matt Scholten with a more than capable cast. And it shows that Summers has a sure gift for demotic speech, and an ability to create contradictory characters that lift out of stereotype into vital life.” Alison Croggon, Theatre Notes 2011

On The Nightwatchman:The Nightwatchman, is a dazzling examination of a family: a son, a daughter and their blind father grope towards the truth of things as the father forsakes his family house and prepares to go into a retirement home. Roger Oakley’s performance should be seen by everyone who cares about the theatre. The Nightwatchman is an elegiac meditation on a lifetime’s memories as they seem to fade, yet recur with maximum intensity. Oakley, as the father, gives the performance of a lifetime. He is gnarled, courteous, full of gulfs of feeling even as he pulls back from feeling. His blindness – as the actor’s eyes stare dark and unseeing into a world of memories – is magnificent. Oakley gives an absolutely compelling familiarity to this impressive old codger, then lets rip with all the doubt and wonderment in the world. Williams and Ellerton-Ashley are both foot-sure and sympathetic as the son and daughter, and Matt Scholten’s production has a superb command of Keene’s subtle shifts of rhythm and tempo. This production presents Keene’s vision with a musical precision. It is a formidable realisation of a formidable play.” Peter Craven, The Australian

“Director Matt Scholten negotiates Keene with restraint and rare emotional intelligence. The performances are as subtle and polished as ripples in a stream; each catching a strain of light amid currents of desolation. As Bill, Roger Oakley distils stoicism and vulnerability into a moving, utterly credible portrait of a blind man. Zoe Ellerton-Ashley and Brad Williams continue their compelling onstage rapport. Ellerton-Ashley expressively probes permutations of sadness, anxiety and anger, resolving into serenity as she gives the present its due; Williams is fatigued by life and possessed by the ghost of repressed emotion that must find release. The design complements the delicate acting: the dim shifts of Lisa Mibus’s lighting, Ben Keane’s haunting piano composition, and Kat Chan’s suggestively abstract background of decomposing wallpaper on vertical panels. The Nightwatchman captures the moment when children must say goodbye to their parents” Cameron Woodhead, The Age

“The first five minutes of Daniel Keene’s The Nightwatchman make an interesting prelude movement to what follows, a subtle sort of prologue to the play’s poetic treatment of memory and nostalgia. Helen (Zoe Ellerton-Ashley) and Michael (Brad Williams) have returned to their childhood home to help their blind and agèd father, Bill (Roger Oakley), sell up and move to an aged-care facility. What is most artfully realised in this play, and in this production, is Bill’s determination, fortified by alcohol, to resist these threshold emotions. He admits the necessity of the nursing home, but does not despair. He knows his memory is bad and getting worse, but does not seek refuge in the twilight of nostalgic dreaming. Perhaps, because of his blindness, because he has already lived for so many years as a kind of nightwatchman, staring into the darkness, he carries a sense of authentic presence, making do with memory’s meagre scraps, if meagre scraps are all that are authentic. This sense of authenticity manifests in what we see of Bill’s love for his children, which is neither denied nor exaggerated. His off-hand way with the family home is not a rejection of family, but, in part, an attempt to liberate Helen and Michael from its twilight influence. Helen, in particular, overwhelmed by adult responsibilities, feels strongly the lure of the threshold dream, the possibility of re-entering the garden of childhood. The garden, at night, in dreams, tempts her, suggesting the ideal unity and harmony that lacks in her own life.Michael, a photographer, sees that the garden is no longer beautiful, that it is no longer what it once was. He is free from the twilight hope of eternal summer, but dogged by despair at the impermanence of things. It is a feeling that has chilled his life, discouraging his participation in the world, from connecting with people and places that might produce joy but which must inevitably dissolve. He is free, but freedom in the world has a cold taste.The cold note is touched elegantly in this production. In Lisa Mibus’s warm lighting design, so evocative of twilight and reminiscence, there is always a blue highlight, a cool edge to everything we see. Similarly, in Ben Keene’s compositions, there are sentimental passages and minor-key moods suggestive of regret, but then there is always the cold note, the mild dissonance, the tendency toward something atonal. I called the prologue subtle, and I think that subtlety is the true character of this production. It is not a matter of understatement, but more a quiet forcefulness, typified by Roger Oakley’s convincing performance in the lead. There are words and phrases here that could easily have been fraught full of obscuring sentiment, but which, under Matt Scholten’s direction, become transparent, revealing with a cool clarity the intricate structures inspired by different kinds of remembering and different kinds of forgetting. On the other hand, the coldness is not allowed to dominate either. The story is, ultimately, a very tender one.” Andrew Furhmann, Crikey

On Dying City: “One of the strengths of Matt Scholten’s direction is the way the actors replicate the experience of trauma. The production builds a gruelling, all-consuming, irrational force. Memories flow from Christopher Shinn’s script organically and unbidden, rising to usurp our attention.Intense and sustained emotion presents difficulties for actors. It’s easy to stray into sentiment or histrionic artifice. A gritty, nuanced performance from Ellerton-Ashley avoids these pitfalls, offering a credible portrait of a woman striving in vain to make herself too small to feel.Williams must embrace two contrasting characters – a disillusioned GI and his gay actor brother – and as with Ellerton-Ashley he displays presence and restraint, psychological complexity and a skilfully understated use of gesture. Dying City posits grief as a positive-feedback loop. It’s the staunchest anti-war play I’ve seen, though it doesn’t moralise. It doesn’t have to.” Cameron Woodhead, The Age 2010

“For all the significance of the ideas Shinn is exploring, this play is never heavy-handed. And its poise is reflected in a concomitantly elegant production by Matt Scholten, which simply permits the emotional life of the writing to emerge. Kat Chan’s cardboard box set manifests the transiency of the characters and is beautifully lit by Tom Willis. What counts in a play like this is the performances, and it’s worth seeing for these alone. Ellerton-Ashley and Williams are both remarkable, doing full justice to the nuance and suppleness of the writing. Williams’s double act as Craig and Peter is a bravura demonstration of the actor’s art: so complete is his transformation between the two characters you wholly believe they are different people (my daughter thought at first that they had in fact cast twins). The dialogue emerges from potent silences, in which the loneliness of the characters becomes almost palpable. Highly recommended.” Alison Croggon, Theatre Notes, 2010

” Firstly Zoe Ellerton-Ashley as Kelly – so bleak and reserved in her responses to Peter yet surprising with strong outbursts on occasion; we see her mostly happy, young and vivacious with husband Craig until their final scene – the demanding and significant changes in mood/emotions and physical approaches were very well met. Brad Williams in the roles of the twin brothers, the military Craig and the gay actor Peter again faced dramatic challenges – we see the gradual changes in Craig and sense in his personality something very tense simmering underneath…. As Peter there was a lighter and a necessary slight theatrical approach but one that suggested to me a naiveté in the complete understanding of all that had transpired…….and its consequences… But there again each person in life deals with tragedy so very differently…There is much more to this 90 minute play than I can describe here – and yes it does sound like a heavy night at the theatre – BUT the show, as directed by Matt Scholten, was so interesting and absorbing both with its text and excellent performances, I can only say ‘highly recommended’ and that it’s the best piece of fringe theatre I have seen in quite a while.” Carolyn Gunn, Radio 3CR

“Shinn allows his argument to accrete in a well-measured way, building the scenario piece by piece with his concise, natural but always direct dialogue. The play does not then hinge on any particular scene, but on the accumulation of suggestions. This method is artfully pick-up by director Matt Scholten, who allows props to carryover from scene to scene, travelling backwards and forwards in time, building-up in Kelly’s otherwise sparse apartment. He suggests also, in the movement of characters between scenes, the instability and fluidity of the relationships and associations.” Andrew Furhmann, Crikey

On The Cove: “Those who bemoan that Daniel Keene’s work is never done in Melbourne have a chance for a bit of catch-up: the Dog Theatre in Footscray, under the direction of the dauntless Matt Scholten, are putting on The Cove, a season of eight short works, over the next four weeks. Keene is of course one of Australia’s most awarded playwrights and almost certainly its most produced, if not here; he has had around 80 productions in Europe since 2000, on some of its main stages. Next year he has productions coming up at the National Theatre of Brussels, the Théâtre National de Toulouse and the Théâtre national de la Colline, the biggest subsidised theatre in Paris…The Cove is an interesting selection of four premieres and four revivals, with one of each performed in repertory each week.The cast includes Majid Shokor, Bruce Myles, Jan Friedl, Danielle Carter, Matthew Molony and Harli Ammes; myself, I can’t wait to see Shokor, one of my favourite actors, perform the two monologues that open and close the season…To be honest, I told Matt Scholten he was bonkers for trying to direct so many: these plays might look simple, but they are far from straightforward – in many ways, they are as unforgiving as Beckett – and they’re very easy to get wrong. He and his team pull off a mighty feat, and give this work an elegant framing of enormous delicacy that shows off some remarkably powerful performances – especially Jan Friedl and Bruce Myles, who are as good as I’ve ever seen them, and Majid Shokor, who is simply astounding. It’s a rare chance to see why those Europeans are so enthusiastic about Keene.” Alison Croggon , Theatre Notes, 2009

“Daniel Keene has always been interested in exploring human emotions, particularly in liminal characters on the threshold of despair. This pattern continues in The Cove, though with a warmer sense of compassion and possibility. There are bleak scenarios with plenty of angst, but there is hope too, coupled with humour and generosity.Each evening features one new work and one revival performed together, enabling audiences a chance to compare the author’s writing over the past 10 years or so. All of these visceral emotions are on display in the pick of the premieres, Cafe Table, a collection of three overheard dialogues exploring the potential of people to change their lives. The scenes are open-ended, set anywhere, any time. As ever, the writing is spare and poetic, and once more we see how generous Keene’s scripts are to his actors. Jan Friedl and Bruce Myles in particular create a textured performance, suturing a whole lifetime of missed connections into the conversation between widow and widower. Matthew Molony and Danielle Carter bring tension and tenderness in equal measure to the vexed parental issues of maintenance and access. Friedl and Carter are also excellent in Somewhere in the Middle of the Night, a poignant portrait of dementia painfully reversing the dynamic in a mother/daughter relationship. A Death sees Keene in a landscape of rather unremitting despair, while The Morning After playfully concludes the quartet with Ortonesque black humour. Artistic director Matt Scholten shows a thorough understanding of Keene’s work.” Martin Ball, The Age 2009

On Glengarry Glen Ross: “Presented by Human Sacrifice Theatre, under the direction of Matt Scholten, the piece is performed with energy, an obvious passion for the text and a high level of credibility. Mark Diaco was absolutely outstanding in his role as Ricky Roma, the articulate, manipulative, young gun salesman, from his first monologue, which meandered deliciously ultimately seducing an unsuspecting ‘Average Joe’ into buying a piece of land, to his final ‘fxxx you!’Mark was controlled, believable and portrayed a masked desperation which felt hauntingly real. Lee Mason, Colin MacPherson, Kevin Summers, Justin Hosking, Justin Batchelor and Greg Pandelidis were consistent, dynamic and all beautifully distinguishable.Matt Scholten was clever in keeping the design minimal and letting the talent do the talking. It was hard to notice the intricacy of the direction, which is always the sign of a good director. The audience was gripped throughout, demonstrating Matt’s great eye for the drama and controlling where it rose and fell.Human Sacrifice Theatre is a company with an impressive history, a successful present and an exciting future. They choose texts which are intelligent, relevant and perfectly suited to their style and talent. They work with strong directors, keep their shows simple in terms of design and presentation and focus on great acting and good storytelling to entertain and excite their audiences.” Paul Kooperman, Australian Stage

On A Slight Ache: “Now, with Matt Scholten’s thoughtful interpretation of Pinter’s earlier radio play, A Slight Ache (1959), we have the opportunity to experience the playwright’s work for the second time in less than six months. A Slight Ache is, appropriately enough, a slighter work than the more stately and terrible Ashes to Ashes, but as was the case with the earlier production, we can only be thankful for the opportunity to see it. That Scholten’s production is both modest and intelligent is simply another reason to be so. The production’s air of Victorian dread is suitably oppressive. As the audience enters to take their seats, Flora, wielding a pair of pruning shears, stands in the back right-hand corner of the space, clipping away at a frightening-looking bush; the matchseller, barely noticeable in the shadows behind the bleachers, is disconcertingly present from the get-go. It is in the second half the play, however, from the moment the matchseller enters the space to the moment he turns to face us at the end, that is handled most impressively. While Edward, now railing against the matchseller, now trying to appease him, stumbles about pontificating in the smoking room, Flora, moving around in the dimly lit sections of the stage as if in a waking dream, takes up her shears and resumes pruning in the foreground, stopping only to wonder, momentarily, at the craggy bush’s single petal. In the most telling and intelligently composed image of the production, Edward, pacing about inside the smoking room, and the matchseller, on the other side of the wall, momentarily pause, side by side on stage, facing in opposite directions. For a moment, by virtue of the minimalist set, the actors’ proximity to one another, and the resultant symmetricality of the image, the two briefly appear as one and the same person, the two sides of the same coin. It is the moment in which Scholten, with quietly unassuming ambiguity, proves the extent to which he understands the text and can express its various complexities theatrically.It is worth remembering this image later, in the play’s final moments, as Edward and the mysterious matchseller finally trade places. This is a prophetic image, and has a slight ache of its own. The lights flare slightly, like a dying firefly, then fade with all the hallucinatory haziness of an anaesthetic dream.” Matthew Clayfield, Australian Stage

“FOR its debut production, If Theatre has chosen an early and – comparatively speaking – slight play by Harold Pinter, A Slight Ache. Originally commissioned for radio (and perhaps having the distinction of including what might be the only silent character ever written for radio), it was written by Pinter just after the The Birthday Party’s disastrous debut on the West End. Matt Scholten gives it a stylish production. The minimalist set has different playing areas designated by furniture, which abstractly outline the space of a comfortable house and garden, and the whole is lushly illuminated, creating little spaces of light in the darkness of the stage. It suggests the unreality of Pinter’s story, which, in how it invokes the hidden desires and fears that live beneath the comfortable surface of middle class existence, is more like a Victorian ghost story than anything else. It’s a respectable enough debut to ensure that I will be at If Theatre’s next production, which is interesting in itself: a remount of three Jack Hibberd plays at La Mama, as part of La Mama’s 40th birthday celebrations. I’m sure they’ll be a welcome addition to Melbourne’s theatrical diet.” Alison Croggon, Theatre Notes