I have a confession to make… I was never able to follow the plot of King Lear.
Maybe it’s because I wasn’t old enough before, but I certainly followed this engaging and innovative production by the talented folks at Groundwork Youth Theatre. I actually suspect it has less to do with my advancing years, and more to do with their commitment to storytelling.
A simple set, very well employed; a lighting design that utilised neon paint and UV lights*; and most importantly, perhaps, the hypnotic sounds of Billie Eilish truly made this production shine.
But what really made this performance was Ella McCubbin’s performance of Goneril. Her authority was unquestionable, and she left no doubt in the audience’s minds about who was running the show. She was admirably supported by the whole cast, but especially by Andrew Veale’s Lear, and Cassie Lenne’s Cordelia.
There were, perhaps, some technical hitches, and a little of the momentum was lost in what looked like missed technical cues. These left the impeccable cast hanging more than once, and it was a shame they had not been ironed out in time.
But nothing could undermine the slick design and the deft excision of Shakespeare’s excess verbiage.
A monumental achievement by Groundwork Youth Theatre.
*Yes, I can be distracted by shiny things
Tags: Abby Collins, Andrew Veale, Cassie Lenne, Chanel Fixter, Charlie Austin, Dane Nicholls, Ella Grace, Ella McCubbin, Groundwork Youth Theatre, Hannah Van Deventer, Kate Coulthard, King Lear, Lauren MacKrell, Lauren Pearce, Lucy Donahoe, Sarah Mitchell, Shakespeare, Stella Ramage, Theatre, William Shakespeare
Stumbling out of another theatre, again physically shaken by the performance I’ve just witnessed, I am awestruck by the ability of creatives to breathe new life into one of the oldest and most frequently redone stories in the canon. But this one was something extra special.
Plonked gently into lad culture, using the images of rugby to speed the story along, our gay pair of star-cross’d lovers shine brilliantly in this show. The cast is condensed to six, the dialogue is abridged but rarely altered: and yet the story rarely diverts significantly from the original.
Curious Pheasant’s Romeo and Juliet successfully stands up to an intellectual scrutiny without becoming a mere academic exercise. The emotion is raw and gutteral, the performances robust and delicately nuanced, and even this middle aged English teacher felt like he was watching the story for the first time, despite knowing essentially what was coming next.
And what it achieves is to show all love as equal. Humane folk care about Juliet and Romeo as much regardless of their gender, and it is specifically a toxic masculinity that gets in the way. Words that ring with familiarity are reinvigorated in this context: that rose, by any other name, really does smell as sweet.
And so, quietly I stepped out of the Bijou into the hustle and noise of Edinburgh’s festive streets, somewhat deafened to the hubbub and still lost in the tragedy. Hoping, maybe, that better days are coming.
Tags: Adam Lay, Alex Bird, Bevan Thomson, Bijou, Curious Pheasant, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Fringe, Fringe, Hampshire, Romeo and Juliet, Ronan Cullen, rugby, Sam Rowland, Shakespeare, toxic masculinity, Troy Chessman
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.
Tags: Anneke van der Velde, Chintarmanya Vivian, Duncan Driver, Emily Ridge, Emma Sekuless, Helen McFarlane, Izaac Beach, Jerry Hearn, Jo Richards, John Lombard, Jonathan Lee, Lakespeare, Lexi Sekuless, Madeline Woods, Much Ado About Nothing, Neil McLeod, Paul Leverenz, Rob de Fries, Shakespeare, Shakespeare by the Lakes, Sunny Amoreena, Taimus Werner-Gibbings, Tasman McClymont-Griffiths, TW Gibbings
I‘m not entirely certain that the glorification of intoxication is a public good, but I don’t think it can be argued that it’s not good for a laugh.
The premise for this piece is beautiful in its simplicity: perform one of Shakespeare’s works with a lead actor completely sloshed. To maintain the premise, a couple of audients are provided with instruments for calling for another drink for the actor, and an audient in the splash zone is put on bucket duty.
Though it may not please the purists, my immediate sensation was that this manner of presentation is possibly even truer to the style of performance in Elizabethan London than the present-day Globe. It’s bawdy and the audience are involved and don’t mind calling out.
But that’s probably where the argument for this as an authentic Shakespearean experience ends. It’s a laugh, and as far as great performances go, there’s little more than some quality improvisation to praise.
The play is shortened to one hour, which is an improvement, but does necessitate a certain amount of assumed knowledge of Shakespeare’s work.
In all, this is a great idea that’s good for one laugh, but I’m not likely to bother a second time.
Tags: Briony Rawle, Leanna Wigginton, Magnficent Bastard Productions, Richard Hughes, Robbie Capaldi, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, shitfaced Shakespeare
I was lucky enough to be able to sit in Central Park this afternoon and enjoy Barefoot Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. I really can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than lazing about in a park while a bunch of very talented performers work very hard to entertain me!
Hard work is exactly what it looked like. The area they were performing in was a particularly busy area of the park, and contrary to the image New Yorkers like to project of their favourite open space, Central Park is not by any means an oasis of calm in the middle of the city’s bustle. To be heard, they had to compete with a loud concert barely 100 metres away, constant helicopters and sirens, and the occasional heckler. But they handled all of this with aplomb, especially Michael Pettey, in the role of Proteus, who improvised marvellously when a particularly rowdy bunch suddenly noticed that he was performing and announced it for all and sundry.
The rest of the cast also delivered an outstanding performance, and although I did struggle to hear above the hubbub of the park, I did manage to follow this play, which I was not very familiar with beforehand.
Courtney Moors also impressed with her portrayal of Silvia. The pathos in her responses resonated brilliantly above the hubbub of the park, and I was certainly taken along with her in her pursuit of Valentine (played by James Kivlen).
In all, a great way to encounter such a fun little play, and a great performance.
Tags: Barefoot Shakespeare, Barefoot Shakespeare Company, Brett Ashley Robinson, Central Park, Clare Solly, Courtney Moors, Danielle O'Farrell, Emily Gallagher, James Kivlen, Maya Close, Mel Ryan, Michael Pettey, Natalie Ann Harris, New York, NY, NYC, Paula Rossman, Rob Sniffin, Ryan Murvin, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the Park, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, William Shakespeare
There really is an over abundance of plays derived from the stories that surround Shakespeare’s life. Though I am getting a little bored of them, I am nonetheless drawn to further explorations of the context in which the Bard lived, and speculations about his times.
Burbage has been one of the better ones I’ve seen lately. Essentially a one hour rant imagined from the realities of Richard Burbage’s life and the common themes of the actor’s existence, it explores these with some depth and develops a strong image of the man left behind as the great playwrights and actors of the Elizabethan era fell off the twig in the early seventeenth century.
Richard Burbage, for those who’ve either forgotten about him or never heard of him (really?), was an actor who performed lead roles in the premieres of many now-canonical works of Elizabethan drama. Playwrights such as Shakespeare and Marlowe wrote roles with him in mind, and he was owner of the Globe Theatre with his brother.
In this monologue, he engages an imaginary young actor, Tom, who is seeking to continue his acting career past the roles of his youth.
Neil McGarry’s greatest achievement in his performance is creating a believable ‘Tom’ in the auditorium. While I am not a fan of monologues, and the idea of an invisible and inaudible second character in a monologue usually seems extremely naff, I was impressed to find myself fully engaged in the reality of the piece. The result is an engaging performance that gives humble recognition to one of the artists who contributed so much to the golden age of English theatre.
Despite some oddities of accent (which I will happily forgive with the knowledge that the English of Burbage’s day sounded a little more like the modern American accent than modern Received Pronunciation), McGarry was entirely believable and made a strong connection with his audience.
This was the last performance at the New York Fringe, but it’s likely to pop up again with the Bay Colony Shakespeare Company, and is worth a look if you’re an artist.
Tags: Bard, Bay Colony Shakespeare Company, Boston, Burbage, Elizabethan Theatre, London, Marlowe, monologue, Neil McGarry, New York, New York Fringe, Nicolas Minella, nyfringe, Richard Burbage, Ross MacDonald, Shakespeare, William Shakespeare
When I was a backpacker in London in 1995 I donated £10 for a brick for the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It took me 19 years, and even after arriving in London I still found circumstances conspiring against me, but I have finally been to a show in the magnificent reconstruction.
I can’t comment too intelligently on the show. Partly because I had no familiarity with Julius Caesar before today, but mostly because of the amazing novelty of being a groundling in Shakespeare’s Globe. I think I would have to see quite a few shows before I could concentrate on the show and not the venue, and even then the number of tourists who are there for the novelty would still be a distraction.
For the unaware, Shakespeare’s Globe is a relatively accurate reconstruction of the Globe Theatre that stood on the South Bank of the Thames when Shakespeare’s work was at its peak. It stands very close to the position of the original, and was constructed using sixteenth century building techniques as much as possible (though it does have the odd modern feature for practicality’s sake like steel drainpipes, safety equipment and a few halogen lights). Like Shakespeare’s Globe it has three balcony levels, where patrons pay according to the view of the stage, and a pit directly in front of the stage where common folk like me can stand and get amongst it all as ‘groundlings’ for a mere £5. It is an outdoor venue, with roofing over the stage and the upper balconies, but none over the pit. And yes, it did rain, which was perfect.
I really would not have enjoyed my day quite as much had I paid for a seat; there are just too many advantages in being a groundling. One of the techniques used to draw the audience’s attention in this context where the house lights don’t turn off on cue and there are no lights for the stage or any curtain to speak of, is for the action to burst into the pit amongst the groundlings, which is exactly how Julius Caesar opens. The performers just burst in pushing a way through the crowd and get everyone focused on the action. This worked extremely well, and really created an atmosphere appropriate to Ancient Rome, which you would be completely outside of if you were sitting.
The main inconvenience in being a groundling is the sky above. It belongs to London, and therefore leaks. Most of the time the leaks are small, but I happened to come on a day when the heavens ope’d and spewed forth their watery bounty. I had secured a spot next to the stage, where I had some respite. I had also forked out for a garbage bag with a hood, which are sold at the door, and offer enough protection to allow you to enjoy the performance, which of course carries on regardless (although the heavens did seem to open and close at the right times to change the meaning of quite a few lines, much to everyone’s enjoyment (including the wet ones)).
I hope you’re starting to get an idea of why I wasn’t paying as much attention as I normally do to what is going on on stage.
The performance was impeccable, I think. I may have been overwhelmed by the novelty of the theatre, but I certainly enjoyed the murder of Caesar, and Marc Antony’s speech was remarkable. Likewise, the friendship of Brutus and Cassius was palpable in this wooden O (sorry, couldn’t resist).
I only regret waiting so long to come see something here. I will be back again and again until I don’t notice the novelty of the space and the tourists annoy me because I’m no longer one of them.
Tags: Brutus, Cassius, Julius Caesar, Luke Thompson, Marc Antony, Shakespeare, Shakespeare's Globe, Tom McKay, William Shakespeare
So of course I couldn’t come to England without making a pilgrimage to the Bard’s hometown. Of course the lure of Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Holy Trinity Church and a clever little exhibition of props from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s collection were too much to resist, but with the throng of tourists getting in the way of the atmosphere, the most pleasant part of our afternoon was definitely plonking ourselves down in The Dell with a pint of cider for a lively performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The company, Greater Fool, was formed specifcally to perform for the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Dell in Stratford Upon Avon, and they certainly deliver. Lewis Allcock worked up a sweat playing four different characters, and David Rankine’s brilliantly angsty Mister Ford had the eager audience in stitches.
Possibly the only decision that left me wondering whether it was a good one was the decision to utilise the fame of Modern Family to improve accessibility. Taya De La Cruz‘s Mistress Page was highly amusing as a Mexican housewife, but the reference was heavy-handed and I just wondered if there was a more nuanced way to achieve the same effect. My twelve-year-old daughter has never seen much Modern Family, so the references went over her head, but she still engaged with the story well, despite having had no exposure to this play before either.
Whether this was too much or not was neither here nor there in the end, as the performance was light, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining. Falstaff (Adam Diggle) was suitably depicted as a football-obsessed larrikin, and his engagement with the audience flowed into the atmosphere of the outdoor space, punctuated, as it was, during the performance we attended, by loud speaker announcements from across the river and actual real-life larrikins who had already removed their jerseys to soak up the sunshine and talk on their phones behind the stage. The cast, however, were impressive in their determination to hold our attention, and their toil paid off. These are perhaps the most undervalued performers in England (it was free, though they do pass a basket around afterwards).
I did consider swapping our days so we could be at Stonehenge for the solstice, but I actually think this was the best activity for summer’s longest day ever devised. And to enjoy a play is a much more suitable activity for a visit to Stratford than battling to catch a glimpse of the bed in Shakespeare’s parents’ room over the shoulders of other pilgrims.
Tags: Adam Diggle, Anna Swan, Avon, Becky Wingham, Bell Shakespeare Company, Callum Hale, David Rankine, Emrys Matthews, Greater Fool, Holly Renaut, Lewis Allcock, Merry Wives of Windsor, Nicole Webb, Roger Parkins, Royal Shakespeare Company, RSC, Shakespeare, Stratford, Stratford Upon Avon, Taya De La Cruz, The Dell, tourism, William Shakespeare
In less than a week I will be taking the stage in London for the first time at The Space on the Isle of Dogs. The Space is a quaint repurposed venue full of character and the first thing I noticed on my arrival was that Romeo and Juliet is currently in production, so of course I had to pop along.
I love Romeo and Juliet principally, I think, because though its plot plays hard and fast with the willing suspension of disbelief, its characters are drawn with impeccable honesty.
Tonight, I was treated to one of those brilliant experiences where the familiar becomes new again. The performers delivered deliciously light renditions of Shakespeare’s characters, while also delving richly into the great stock of pathos Shakespeare provided.
I was particularly taken with Lucy Bailey, who took us on the Nurse’s amusing and moving journey of joys and sorrows. Juliet was also given an unusually engaging lightness by Rebecca Burnett that provided the space for joining her on her highs and lows.
There was some novel (and very clever) casting in the form of turning Benvolio into a Benvolia, and Gregory also underwent a sex change. Both characters benefited from finding their feminine side, I thought, though it didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose other than utilising the eternal glut of female actors and relieving the difficulty of fielding a male cast.
And herein lies my one reservation about this production. Despite a couple of interesting choices such as this, and despite some commendable performances, there’s no spark of brilliance to make it truly noteworthy.
These qualities don’t quite compensate for a rather staid envisioning of a text with such broad possibilities. It just seemed far too constrained to its conventional setting, and despite the freshness of the performances, I just wanted something more to sink my teeth into.
Tags: Adam Milford, Amber Elliott, Angus Howard, Benvolio, Dilaila Colasuono, Ethan Chapples, Henry Heathcote, Isle of Dogs, Jennifer Shakesby, Juliet, London, Lucy Bailey, Rebecca Burnett, Romeo, Romeo Juliet, Sally Preston, Shakespeare, Stephen Harakis, The Space, Tim Fordyce, Tom Blyth
Okay, I might have a reason to like Ram-Leela that gives me a bit of a bias, but I simply haven’t enjoyed a film this much in ages. Colourful, engaging, and full of life, this film captures the attention and the heart.
Bollywood has not been high on my list of priorities, but this film could well change that. Their energy and obsession with colour has always fascinated me, but the plots can be pretty ordinary. Since Ram-Leela borrows the bulk of its plot from England’s foremost dramatist, it can hardly be said to suffer from this illness.
Based roughly on Romeo and Juliet, Ram-Leela begins with the familiar style of Bollywood. It is not long, however before it delves deeper into the characters and their backstory than is customary, and the challenge becomes to recognise Shakespeare’s characters in those in front of us.
This is not, however, a straightforward transliteration. In transplanting the story to India, the plot required some major reconstructive surgery. It takes some interesting turns that are not quite what I was expecting, and in the second act I was beginning to think the plot had diverted completely from Shakespeare’s when it finally resolved back into the familiar run.
This is where I really found myself fascinated. Some of my readers may be aware that some years ago I was involved in writing and directing a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet in which the lovers live and rather than finding a happily ever after they find they don’t really like each other quite as much as they thought they did. Ram-Leela looked for a while like it might head down a similar path, but it didn’t, and I breathed a sigh of relief in a way.
I can’t think of a more interesting experience than seeing this film in the heady mix of cultures I am experiencing here in Timor-Leste. It just sits beautifully in this eclectic place and should not be missed.
Tags: Bollywood, Deepika Padukone, England, India, Ram-Leela, Ranveer Singh, Romeo Juliet, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Shakespeare, William Shakespeare
The Street Theatre has brought to Canberra two of the cleverest interpreters of Shakespeare’s work who ever trotted the globe. Two Gents Productions hails from London, and are being hailed the world over for their intense physical rendering of The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Hamlet, which play in repertory this week at The Street Theatre.
For The Two Gentlemen of Verona the two performers, Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyebvu, change between characters using the convention of a single costume piece to indicate each character. In the early stages they also call the name of the character as they take on this piece, and the custom is charming, and breaks down some of the nervousness about being able to follow such a pared down rendering…
The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.
- Frank McCone interviewed the artists on Canberra Critics Circle.
- Helen Musa praises the Two Gents at City News.
Tags: Africa, Arne Pohlmeier, Canberra, Corambis, Denton Chikura, Hamlet, Julia, Kupenga Kwa Hamlet, Laertes, London, Ophelia, Polonius, Proteus, Shakespeare, Silvia, Theatre, Tunderai Munyebvu, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Two Gents Productions, Valentine, William Shakespeare, Zimbabwe
I have just had one of the most enjoyable experiences of Shakespeare’s work I can remember. Broadway Bard, part of the Sydney Fringe, is a show in which a bunch of random soliloquies or scenes (and even a couple of sonnets) and match it with a Broadway song. Simple enough. But the vivacity with which this concept has been realised is refreshing and very real.
Setting the tone by reminding us that Shakespeare didn’t write for academics, but for the brutal criticism of the paying customer, Julian Kuo, the voice of the show, proceeds at an almost frantic pace through a selection of bits of the plays and sonnets of the Bard. His recitations of Shakespeare’s words are just brilliant, and his performances of the musical numbers are inspired. He holds a great rapport with the audience throughout, and is most engaging as an almost-solo performer.
Kuo is supported by Isaac Hayward on piano, who must find it tiring at such a long sitting. His entrance, however, was awkward, and I’m not sure the director achieved what he was aiming for. Pianists, unless they are also actors, are probably best left at the piano. Especially the really good ones. Kuo could have used some better direction, too. Despite excellent presence, the stage at times felt like a large open paddock, and the plethora of props was really unnecessary. I suspect that it could be successfully staged with none, but at least half of the props really should have gone.
I forgot all that, however, during Kuo’s rendition of Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ speech, which, while a little difficult to relate to at first, given that Kuo had his back to the audience for far too long, really sprang to life when it segued so seamlessly with Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The juxtaposition of these two pieces lent both an air of melancholy such as I have never seen more successfully brought about.
This, like many other moments, left me with goosebumps, and I don’t goosebump very easily. I almost found this journey through the familiar and not-so-familiar highlights of Shakespeare’s work to be more fun than seeing an entire play. Watch for it in Canberra!
Tags: Bard, Isaac Hayward, Julian Kuo, Shakespeare, Sidetrack Theatre, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Sydney Fringe, William Shakespeare, Wizard of Oz
Although I grew up in that period when Shakespeare was well and truly out of favour in New South Welsh schools, I have loved his work ever since I first gave Hamlet the time of day at the age of 21. This was the year when Kenneth Branagh put the whole damn thing on screen, and even that self-indulgent marathon wasn’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm. Shakespeare’s plays, layered as they are with so many diverse readings, are always ready to yield another insight or provoke another idea. Among my favourite of Shakespeare’s provocations is Tom Stoppard’s magnificent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. This play, derived from Hamlet, features I think the best description of theatre ever devised. Offering a performance to a pair of potential customers, the leader of a performance troupe explains their creative oeuvre:
“We’re more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory.”
The importance of blood, or more precisely, violence, can’t be underestimated in Shakespeare’s work…
The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.
Tags: Adam Salter, Elaine Noon, Gertrude's Hamlet, Guildenstern, Kenneth Branagh, Kerrie Roberts, Noni See, Rhetoric, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard, Tuggeranong Arts Centre, William Shakespeare
Having secured what I knew to be the last available ticket for Yohangza Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet, I was surprised to find myself sitting next to the South Australian Premier and his wife for the performance. The irony of watching a king’s downfall orchestrated through a theatre production while sitting next to the leader of a state government in a theatre was not lost on me, but I doubt that Mike Rann and his wife felt the same pangs of guilt as Gertrude and Claudius.
Played by Eun-Hee Kim, this Gertrude is perhaps not as guilt-ridden as some I have encountered. But whereas Gertrude is often portrayed with an underlying sense of her own moral corruption, Kim has given her an aloofness, lasting until Hamlet finally reveals his hand following the theatre scene. I prefer this change, as risky as it might be. It holds more weight with Shakespeare’s text, and in this production, in this context, it provides a profound shift in the character that is necessary to add depth for its Australian audience. This is not a criticism of the performers, but a play performed in Korean for a predominantly English-speaking audience can’t skimp on such details.
Hamlet certainly doesn’t. Played by Jung-Yong Jeon, his vacillations are as palpable as that fatal hit, and his descent into madness is beautifully paced; almost undetectable. Claudius could perhaps have emoted rather more; by both dress and demeanour he emerged more western than the rest of the cast. But in all, this cast expended enough energy and elicited enough pathos to warrant a standing ovation from the opening night audience (though the premier, notably, remained seated).
A minimalist set spares no effort, with a centre rostrum raised in the middle of what must be hundreds of kilos of rice, and surrounded by traditional Korean artworks, and Korean percussive instruments. These instruments are put to excellent use by the cast, whose timing and energy is perfectly synthesised. More intriguingly, Korean Shaman rites are used to ensure the story is at home in its Korean context.
This is a remarkably sensitive production of what I think is Shakespeare’s greatest work. It is faithful, if such a word can really be applied to any production of Shakespeare’s work later than the seventeenth century, to the characters, their motivations, fears and desires; as well as their circumstances. And it dispels in my mind any doubt that the stories of Shakespeare are absolutely universal in their application to humanity.
Tags: Claudius, Eun-Hee Kim, Gertrude, Hamlet, Jung-Yong Jeon, Mike Rann, Shakespeare, Theatre, William Shakespeare
Robin Hood is a bit of a marathon, and if you have a comfortable seat and a few hours to spare, it’s a vaguely worthwhile pastime. Unlike other renditions of the myth, this film draws its impetus from political machinations, and lets go of the story’s usual plebian roots. Surprisingly, this is actually a good decision, as it provides not only a novel context for the story, but also broader relevance.
Russell Crowe plays his typical alpha male with a softer side, only this time with a funny accent. This novelty is complemented by extremely modern dialogue; making the film in many ways a counterpoint to films of Shakespeare’s plays that place sixteenth century dialogue in a modern setting. This is the opposite; playing twenty-first century dialogue in a twelfth century setting, with the added irony of a post-colonial actor playing the Old Country’s chief hero. My strange little mind would like to have heard Crowe’s cultivated Australian accent placed into the context to see what other meanings could be derived, but of course that wouldn’t do so well at the box office, would it?
And the box office is what this film is made for. It is formulaic, rudimentary and appeals to the same values as every other film about underdogs made in the last couple of decades. It does absolutely nothing to distinguish itself from that genre, and sits somewhere in the middle of Ridley Scott‘s very palatable aesthetic.
Of more note than this film is the venue I saw it in. Perth’s Picadilly Cinema is a quaint venue, reminiscent of Canberra’s Electric Shadows. That’s all well and good, but this film needs chairs with a higher back and a clearer view of the screen. I came out with a sore neck and tired knees. Every city, especially Australia’s western mecca deserves a Dendy or a Limelight.
A good film, but a bit meh.
Tags: Australia, Dendy, Electric Shadows, Picadilly Cinema, Ridley Scott, Robin Hood, Russell Crowe, Shakespeare
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.
Tags: Adrian Flor, Arts, British, Duncan Driver, Duncan Ley, Helen McFarlane, Ian Croker, James Scott, Jim Adami, Literature, Peter Fock, Richard III, Shakespeare, William Shakespeare, World Literature
I have just handed over the reins of my current project, Take Their Life, to the stage manager, Joyce Gore. I thought I was scared of directing anything of Shakespeare’s before, but now I’m even more scared because I no longer have any control over what happens!
I have learned an awful lot from the experience of directing a sacred cow. Having only directed new, or relatively new, works before, I’ve never had to deal with strongly-established and conflicting interpretations of character before. The principles are the same: you look for various interpretations and pick the one that best suits your needs, but when there is such a wide range of varying interpretations, and when some of those interpretations are so firmly entrenched from centuries of analysis, it can be a tough call to pick the one that best suits our purposes.
All directors say it, but it really has been a pleasure to work with such a talented cast. They’ve amazed me at times with their capacity to take an idea I’ve had about how a character should act or respond, and incorporate that into a holistic expression of a character, which essentially is nothing more than a concept. I have found it quite humbling to watch those characters emerge from vague and shadowy ideas in my head into characters who stand and walk about and interact as if they’re real people.
So next stop is opening night, when we turn Shakespeare’s sacred cow into a profane one. I hope people enjoy it, but really, the best part of the experience of profaning a sacred cow is over, and after nine months in development, I am both breathing a sigh of relief, and beginning to fret about letting it go.
Tags: adaptation, Diane Heather, Hannah Dawson, Jon Sharp, Joyce Gore, Melissa Savage, Performing arts, Pete Stiles, Shakespeare, Stage management, take their life, Theatre, William Shakespeare
I think Dionysus was smiling on me when I rocked up at La Mama tonight without a booking. And to be within those hallowed walls was, as always, a humbling experience. The Danger Ensemble‘s The Hamlet Apocalypse illustrates beautifully the human inclination to cling to what we know when facing what we fear.
Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, says that “this work is very simply about a group of actors choosing to perform William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the face of the apocalypse, the end, death, finality, loss, whichever it is for you”. And while there is an element of simplicity in its performance, there is nothing simple about the way these actors face their apocalypse. Rather, there is an understanding and intense depiction of the very human emotions of fear, anticipation and determination.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the perfect partner for this story, and its broad plot arc has been deftly interwoven with these actors’ story. The cast delivers Shakespeare’s dialogue with aplomb, and I may well have wanted to see them simply do Hamlet, were it not for the fascinating development of the actors’ characters. As the cast counts down to the apocalypse, their own fears, insecurities and personalities render some of Shakespeare’s most profound characters dull by comparison with these performers, whose experiences resonate spectacularly in La Mama’s confined space.
Tags: Dionysus, Hamlet, Katrina Cornwell, Kenneth Branagh, La Mama, Laurence Olivier, Lloyd Allison-Young, Mark Hill, Peta Ward, Robbie O'Brien, Shakespeare, The Hamlet Apocalypse, Tora Hylands, William Shakespeare
When you go to the preview night for a Bell Shakespeare production, it could be for one of two reasons: either you’re too stingy to pay full price, or you’re so damn keen you couldn’t wait… I fall into both categories.
If you’ve read any of the publicity about this production of The Taming of the Shrew, you will probably be aware that it sports an all-female cast. Of course the history of the play’s interpretation, especially in the last century, is all about its gender politics. And rightly so, since it is a theme that cannot be divorced from Shakespeare’s text. But having seen it, I wonder whether the decision to use an all-female cast really entered into the play’s production process. I think it felt more like an academic exercise. A valid and interesting academic exercise, perhaps, but not as exciting as Shakespeare can be when he is lifted above the realm of the rational.
Petruchio is the character that stands to lose the most in being played by a woman, but Jeanette Cronin delivers a slightly insane Petruchio with a singularly spectacular performance. Luisa Hastings Edge likewise delivers a fully engaging and well-rounded Lucentio. Unfortunately, in the case of the remaining male characters, their female performers fail to deliver an entirely engaging performance.
Of course, this may be intentional. Perhaps Director Marion Potts meant for the disjuncture between the performer and character to accentuate our modern discomfort with the shrew’s taming? Perhaps. But if this was the case, it’s unfortunate that it leaves the audience simply uncomfortable and not sure why. Even if the other male characters had been better played by their performers, I still feel that the all-female cast idea would amount to little more than an academic exercise or marketing ploy, offering no enhancement to the production.
I don’t mean to be too heavily critical of Bell’s production, nor of the other performers playing male roles. Despite the unnecessary distraction of the female performers, the production as a whole is excellent, eliciting plenty of laughter and pathos even from a tired old cynic like me.
I especially liked the setting, which immediately put me in mind of Rooty Hill RSL, until I realised that there is no way there’d be five mirror balls at Rooty Hill, and this must therefore certainly be modelled after Parramatta RSL. The use of Karaoke is a nice touch, and I still have Culture Club lyrics swimming around in my head.
So apart from bearing perhaps a little too much concern for its gender politics, I think Marion Potts should be congratulated on a great production of one of Shakespeare’s best comedies.
Tags: Bell Shakespeare Company, Jeanette Cronin, Lucentio, Luisa Hastings Edge, Marion Potts, Petruchio, Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
It took a while, I think, for both the cast and the audience to warm up to The Alchemist on Monday night. Maybe it was the day, or maybe it was not quite what the audience was expecting from Bell Shakespeare, or maybe it was simply the language.
There are a lot of people who find Shakespeare’s language difficult to understand. I have always found that the more I am working with the language, the easier it is to understand. It took some warming up, but I found Ben Jonson’s dialogue less dense, and more accessible for my 20th century ears, than I usually find with Shakespeare. Maybe it has something to do with the nature of the humour, which is more pithy than Shakespeare’s, and perhaps, as such, more akin to an Australian’s sense of humour. The interpretation of Lovewit, performed by Russell Keifel, certainly played this up, with his use of a laugh and accent reminiscent of Bob Hawke.
Whatever it was, Bell Shakespeare’s production of The Alchemistmet my expectations. It was thoughtful, intelligent, imaginative, unencumbered by preconceptions, and thoroughly entertaining.
Tags: Alchemist, Andrew Tinghe, Ben Jonson, Bryan Roberts, Georgina Symes, John Bell, Lucas Stibbard, Patrick Dickson, Peter Sutherland, Russell Kiefel, Scott Witt, Shakespeare, William Shakespeare