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Tag Archives: Duncan Driver

Much Ado About Nothing

Canberra’s sunsets are a little short for Shakespeare, but the timing was pretty damn near perfect for Shakespeare by the Lakes’ debut tonight.

A bright and committed team of enthusiasts have brought back Canberra’s outdoor performances of Shakespeare, and they should be commended for the way in which they galvanised the community and pulled together such a great performance.

The costumes are reminiscent of Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film, and Izaac Beach’s Claudio is, astonishingly, even more cloying than Robert Sean Leonard’s from that same film. Lexi Sekuless is the standout, I feel: one of the most beautifully balanced Beatrices I’ve ever encountered, and she’s matched brilliantly by Duncan Driver’s Benedick.

I especially appreciate the way in which the space is used. In front of Tuggeranong Town Park’s rather sad little stage, the performers engage the audience with direct address, entering the performance space through the audience and even extending in amongst the picnic rugs at times. It’s an authentic and relatable way to treat the bard we so often revere but rarely embrace.

I did have some sympathy for the poor sound technicians: the wind picked up in the afternoon and the performers’ mics told us all about it. It was at times difficult to hear the voices, especially when, to minimise the problem, the operators turned the mics off and back on as required, frequently suffering a lag in reconnection.

It is a big decision in this context whether to amplify or not. The use of microphones, even when there’s no need to compensate for wind, kills a lot of expression, and it is difficult to recover. But in an outdoor space like this, amplification is sadly necessary. It doesn’t help that the ACT Government, despite investing substantially in outdoor performance venues, couldn’t even be bothered applying the technology perfected by the Greeks 2,500 years ago. A simple amphitheatre would eliminate the need for soul-crushing PA systems, but we’re stuck with flat auditoria like a people who have no access to the wisdom of ancient civilisations! /rant

Despite this difficulty, a talented cast certainly made the most of the the deftly-trimmed script, and gave an appreciative audience a show worthy of the investment made by the show’s sponsors. I hope to be enjoying Shakespeare by the Lakes for many years to come.

 

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 14 February 2018 in Canberra Theatre, Shakespeare by the Lakes, Theatre

 

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Rent

RentEveryman Theatre has opened a fine production of a modern classic at the Courtyard.

The story of a group of impoverished friends struggling to make their name in New York under the shadow of HIV/AIDS, Rent is among the longest-running Broadway musicals, having been performed at the Nederlander Theatre from 1996 to 2008. Its historical significance (both social and theatrical) is great, and it is starting to show its age, with a few obscure lines now highlighting the changes that have come about in western society’s responses to HIV/AIDS and homosexuality in the last decade. It remains, however, a very poignant story, highly developed in character and plot; qualities that are extremely rare in musical theatre.

It can’t be denied that Rent is a big show. Nothing about it is intimate; its themes are as lofty as its music is histrionic. And its characters, while well-developed, are nonetheless representatives of archetypes more than they are individual personae. So to squeeze this vast musical into the Courtyard at the Canberra Theatre Centre is a curious choice. Perhaps it is the bite…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 6 December 2012 in Canberra Theatre, Everyman Theatre, Musical Theatre, Theatre

 

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And Then There Were None

There’s a bit of a risk involved in seeing a show you’ve been involved with yourself. I did sound for a production of And Then There Were None in Theatre 3 back in 1998, when I first moved to Canberra, so there was no way I was going to miss seeing Rep’s production of it this year!

One thing that surprised me was how many lines I recalled. I had none previously, although there were plenty of cues. Still, you wouldn’t think I would recall them twelve years later with no contact with the play in the intervening years. And I really didn’t remember the outcome. Not a skerrick of it. At any rate, it was a trip down memory lane.

The risk, of course, is that my view of the play is coloured by my memories of the production I was involved with. Not that they should be compared. I was involved with a student production by CADS (the defunct Canberra Amateur Dramatic Society), directed by relatively inexperienced directors, whereas Rep’s production boasted the very deft hand of Duncan Ley as well as a host of experienced Canberra actors. And it showed. This was a great show that gave the play a lot more life than ours did. And it’s needed with Agatha Christie‘s dialogue. It gave the odd nod to Film Noir, which at times was just a little too much at odds with the text, but more often suited it well.

The set, as dark and gloomy as a stage set can be, didn’t seem to add much apart from making the Film Noir reference, but it suited the purpose and certainly gave room for the performers to die the most excellent deaths.

I love a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is quite true of Rep’s production of And Then There Were None. Really, no Agatha Christie play can be taken too seriously; they get awfully dry awfully quickly otherwise. This production manages to hold the attention marvellously.

 

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Richard III

In Richard III, Shakespeare has left us one of the greatest challenges to the willing suspension of disbelief ever created; Richard is a foul and loathsome character, and yet every time I see the play, I am amazed at how much sympathy I have for the detestable excuse for a human being I am presented with. Everyman Theatre has left me in this state yet again.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
 

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In Cold Light

It could almost be said that In Cold Light deals lightly with an issue of severe gravity. It could be said, if the play did not take itself so seriously.

Jarrad West gives a credible performance of the lead role, Christian Lamori; a Catholic priest summoned for questioning by a seemingly guileless inspector. With this character, writer Duncan Ley has deftly woven elements of a stereotype with the intensity of a tormented soul. This is mostly successful, but I felt that the use of an English accent for these characters lent the production a sense of remoteness that hindered my capacity to empathise.
Nonetheless, the play is a brilliant exploration of an aspect of humanity that we generally either avoid telling stories about or explore with very little depth. And the twist at the end is pure gold.
 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 4 February 2009 in Canberra Theatre, The Q, Theatre

 

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