Posts Tagged ‘Charles Dickens

10
Dec
18

A Christmas Carol

 

A Christmas Carol

QPAC and shake & stir theatre co

QPAC Playhouse

December 8 – 20 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

– Charles Dickens

 

And in the end, light wins.

– Josh McIntosh

 

DON’T EVEN READ THIS. JUST BOOK THE TIX ALREADY.

 

Brisbane has seen three Christmas shows run simultaneously this year in a bid by leading companies to capture the Christmas market by encouraging us to establish new yuletide traditions. It’s a no-brainer, brilliant; everyone’s a winner. Give heart-warming, life-affirming, amazing experiences created especially for you by artists who stay employed right up until the end of the year in our venues that, by being filled to overflowing for every show, reinforces the case for our need for new venues so more humans get to enjoy live entertainment. This is what it’s all about. 

 

All three productions are of the highest quality, but it’s A Christmas Carol that exceeds expectations. It’s not only a compassionate take on the timeless tale, and performed with ease and extra sparkle by a stunning cast, but it’s truly visually spectacular. It’s not overstating the fact to say that the combination of visual elements surpasses anything we’ve seen before, with the exception of a flying carpet perhaps. You’ll get no spoilers from me, however; you’ll have to see the theatrical magic for yourself. 

 

shake & stir’s superb retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, adapted for the stage by Nelle Lee and directed by Michael Futcher, might not appear to be for everyone; at first glance it looks dark, sombre and a little bit scary. But it’s also very funny and completely family friendly (QPAC and shake & stir recommend the family members be 8 years and older), and as set and costume designer, Josh McIntosh reminds us, in the end, light wins.

 

Josh Mcintosh has actually outdone himself with A Christmas Carol’s seamlessly shifting set design of Neo Victorian Gothic walls and windows and staircases and balconies, creating imposing movable pieces that come together like a jumbo 3D puzzle in a whirlwind of choreography, and in true Gothic style, create an additional character in its own right, of 1800s Victorian London. Somehow there are spaces that also seem cosy and reassuring, and this is helped by Jason Glenwright’s stunning lighting states, bringing daylight into the darkest corners of the world without losing the sense of the shadows we see at the edges.

 

In amongst the moments of Christmas cheer, the mood is eerie, foreboding, suspenseful; everything that the mega smash hit next door offered to deliver and didn’t. Unsurprisingly, because this company goes to such lengths or because the theatre ghosts kindly arranged it, air con colludes with creatives, chilling us to the bone so that a shiver runs down the spine even before we catch our first a glimpse of the Ghost of Christmas Past. And is it really the actor on stage? Or an apparition? It’s the magic of theatre, created by Craig Wilkinson of another Brisbane based creative company steadily taking over the world, optikal bloc.

 

Despite some highly physical characterisations, particularly in Eugene Gilfedder’s Scrooge, and in Bryan Probets’ Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas past, present and future (if it is indeed his elegant gesture inside the sleeve of the Elder-esque figure), there’s actually very little pageantry or pantomime involved. These heightened performances are delightful, and comparatively naturalistic when we remember perennial favourites, George’s Marvellous Medicine and Revolting Rhymes

 

The real secret to the success of this production lies in its magical alchemy behind the scenes, in the spaces between shake & stir’s founders and Artistic Directors, Nelle Lee, Nick Skubij and Ross Balbuziente, and the phenomenally talented creative team they assemble each time. Honestly, how we still have them in Brisbane is beyond me. Like those of The Little Red Company, shake & stir’s mainstage productions are truly world class, and they could choose to be based anywhere in the world. However, a beautiful producing and presenting partnership with QPAC and finding your work so brilliantly realised by the likes of director, Michael Futcher, and the design team would make anybody reluctant to leave the nest.

 

Original, whimsical musical arrangements performed live by wandering minstrel Salliana Campbell add festive spirit and fun to an often haunting soundscape. Campbell is a natural addition to the shake & stir family, fitting into every scene with her easy, relaxed manner and accomplished musicianship, and even brightly, unfalteringly, returning Scrooge’s Christmas morning greeting. The lovely Arnijka Larcombe-Weate is another new addition, however; we will need to wait for the next production to see her potential more fully realised.

 

 

Futcher is one of my favourite insightful directors, his light touch able to take on board the bleak tone of the original material and its central unlikeable character, but also dispel any dark power that it may hold over us by excavating the inherent beauty and kindness of human nature, and the nuances in each moment of joy, in this case, the simple message of peace and goodwill. So while this is a dark and sometimes terrifying story, the light really does win in the end. Some lovely, typically shake & stir comedy comes through, and this is also testament to Lee’s ability to adapt a complex classical text that on stage becomes suitable for almost all ages. I will mention that a particularly terrifying projected image stayed with Poppy throughout the rooftop party and lingered during the drive home, so that we had to hear Dear Evan Hansen twice more. This is not a terrible thing. The current detour due to roadworks takes us home via Forest Glen, an extra twenty minutes down the road, so the deluxe album, including deleted songs and Katy Perry’s curious rendition of Waving Through A Window, was perfect. And Poppy remembers a perfect evening out!

 

This company is well known for its founding artists’ ability to turn a hand to just about anything, and their performances don’t disappoint. Lee offers a gorgeous and gratitude filled, bubbling, bustling Mrs Cratchit, which is supported by the heartfelt, heart-warming performances of the boys (Skubij and Balbuzienti, two of the few amongst us who can convincingly play much younger than they are). And in his shake & stir debut, Lucas Stibbard is a particular Mr Cratchit, not dithering, not obsessive, not quite frightened rabbit…but there’s a sense of the downtrodden, the underdog, and he harnesses this energy beautifully to turn around each low point for the sake of his family and the youngest boy, the cripple, Tiny Tim. I won’t spoil it, but this character is a little bit of quiet genius, which may or may not make perfect sense to you, depending on your imagination and compassion. (And if you really want the spoilers, simply read the other reviews. What is it with this frantic, desperate need to reveal all?). 

 

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A Christmas Carol is the new next best beautiful annual tradition after The Nutcracker – many will say it’s their preferred option – if the presenting partners can make it work. If so, I’d like to see the ticket prices reflect the nature of the gift this show would be to so many families – and not only families – that would otherwise miss out.

 

There will always be artists and sets and spaces demanding payment (actually, the artists are usually the least demanding), and there will always be a demographic that can’t even entertain the possibility of taking themselves, let alone a family of four or five to a show, especially at Christmas time. So let’s find a way to make this brilliant, beautiful, uplifting, thrilling and life-affirming experience more accessible. Would you gift a ticket? Keep letting our companies and venues know that when you book your seats, you’d like to Pay It Forward rather than Pay A Booking Fee. 

23
Mar
12

Dickens’ Women

Dickens’ Women

AMcK Fine Entertainment

QPAC Playhouse

Featuring Miriam Margoyles

Directed by Sonia Fraser

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

 

‘A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other 

Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

Tonight, I met some wonderful individuals that made me giggle and then in the next breath come close to tears. Tonight I was surprised, enthralled and captivated by both fascinating and fickle stories. I eavesdropped on conversations that transported me into another era. Tonight, the delightfully engaging Miriam Margolyes introduced me to Dickens’ Women.

 

 

Presented by AMcK Fine Entertainment, and written by Miriam Margolyes and Sonia Fraser (Director), Dickens Women draws from classics such as Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, Bleak House and Great Expectations, combining sensitive insight into the life of Dickens himself, with a thoroughly entertaining exploration of his most colourful literary personalities.

 

 

Elegantly accompanied by John Martin on piano, this is an intimate conversation in which Margolyes shares her inherent fascination and love for the work of Charles Dickens, in a way that reveals the unavoidable humanity of the literary great and that of his celebrated characters.

The set itself is minimalistic, and effectively so. Reflecting the cosy ambiance of a period drawing room (complete with a portrait of Charles Dickens himself), the simple design is functional and not without its own story, Margolyes telling the story of Dickens favoured reading desk, a replica of which is used throughout the show. Different levels of staging and creative lighting design (Mark Hammer) are also used to effectively create a sense of intimacy and adaptability that suits the ever-changing environment of the show.

Margolyes embodiment of each character is compelling. Brought to life through a combination of skilful characterisation and infectious storytelling, Margolyes is careful not to alienate those of us who may not know each of Dickens’ characters as intimately as she. Each is seamlessly introduced to the audience, just as one would introduce one friend to another, biography and storytelling going hand in hand as parallels between the characters and Dickens’ own relationships are revealed, with no apologies for the often shocking and chauvinistic caricatures of Dickens’ imagination!

Margolyes management of Dickens’ text is beautiful and evident of a true respect for the contours and nuances of the English language. I found myself at times luxuriating in the sheer poetry of the words themselves. Her eloquent and stylish delivery creates a believable portrayal of each individual, her voice and physicality taking on each character in comprehensive detail. The transformation is instantaneous, as she expertly switches between a young flippish seventeen year old girl (Little Nell) to that of a stately matron (Mrs Jarley), (Old Curiosity Shop). Her portrayal of the delightful interaction between Mr Bumble and Mrs Corney (Oliver Twist), is hilarious, her physicality and comic timing making this particular scene one of my personal favourites!

The show is not without its sombre moments and it’s within these that Margolyes performs with a sense of poise and stillness that is captivating to watch. Her portrayal of both the tormented Miss Wade (Little Dorrit) and the dottery Miss Flite (Bleak House) highlights the fragility and essential humanity of these characters. Heartbreakingly and honestly beautiful.

Miriam Margolyes is undoubtedly one of the finest character actors of her time and in her performance of Dickens’ Women, demonstrates her passion for Charles Dickens’ work. The show flows seamlessly from story to biography to character play, in turn giving a wonderful introduction to the life, women and works of a literary great. Dickens’ Women is a show that in it’s exploration of Dickens’ characters of yesterday, draws parallels with our lives today as it delves into a wonderful writer’s imagination and inspires all those who love a good story.

 

“They’re not just voices on their own. There’s a person inside there. You’ve got to get inside the person…”

 

09
Feb
12

Dickens 200th Anniversary: Dickens’ Women

Did you know it was Charles Dickens’ birthday on Tuesday? He would have been 200 years old!

The British Council has an exciting schedule of events in 2012, to celebrate worldwide, Dickens’ 200th anniversary. We are lucky enough to welcome the return of the extraordinary BAFTA®-winning actress, Miriam Margolyes, in her one-woman show, Dickens’ Women.

Andrew Denton is a big fan of Margolyes:

Miriam Margolyes is just a little different to most actors. She has done Dickens … she has been a penguin, a sheepdog and a glow-worm. You may also know her as Professor Sprout from Harry Potter. Her CV is as unlikely as the woman herself.’ 

In Dickens’ Women, Margolyes will bring to life 23 of Charles Dickens’ most affecting female (and male!) characters, including Mrs Micawber from David Copperfield, Miss Havisham in Great Expectations and the grotesque Mrs Gramp in Martin Chuzzlewit. “They are real to me,” she says.

“Dickens’ women were chosen not only because they are some of the most colourful and entertaining characters in his writing, but because they were based on real people in his life; people he fought with and cared for, loved and hated,” explains Miriam. “In this way, the play is as much about the man himself, as it is about the 23 characters. These characters are drawn from his novels & sketches, including his most popular such as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and Nicholas Nickleby. Some characters are famous & iconic, others are lesser-known creations from Dickens’ books, but all offer a unique glimpse into the real-life Charles Dickens.”

For Margolyes, it all comes down to the voice. She once said, “Voices are people,” and recently, when speaking with Sharon Verghis of the Weekend Australian review (February 4th -5th 2012), “Voices betray people perhaps in ways they never imagine.” This reveals a lot about the woman (more vulnerable than one would think, according to Verghis) and about her characters (“the mixture of evil and comedy that is particularly Dickensian.”)

Margolyes’ career began within the BBC Drama Department, in radio roles and voiceovers and quickly spanned TV (Blackadder), film (The Age of Innocence) and theatre (she was Madame Morrible in the original West End production of Wicked).

Miriam Margolyes as Madame Morrible in the original West End production of Wicked

“Directors are always saying to me, ‘A bit less, Miriam’.

And with Dickens, you don’t have to do that.”

Miriam Margolyes in conversation with Sharon Verghis

Dickens’ Women was developed by self-confessed “Dickens’ tragic”, Miriam Margolyes and Sonia Fraser for the 1989 Edinburgh Festival. It has since travelled worldwide, including London, Jerusalem, Santa Cruz, New York, Boston, Sydney, and all over India. In 1992, Dickens’ Women was nominated for the prestigious Olivier Award. 2012 will be busy for Miriam Margolyes; she is also appearing in the ABC’s new series Phryne Fisher Murder Mysteries based on the best selling series by Kerry Greenwood and set in the 1920s in Melbourne. Miriam will play Mrs Prudence Stanley, Phryne’s Aunt.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Miriam Margolyes live on stage, only at the QPAC Playhouse and the Gold Coast Arts Centre in March.

What:             Miriam Margolyes in Dickens’ Women in BRISBANE

                           Presented by Andrew McKinnon Fine Entertainment

Venue:           Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC)

Date:              March 22 – 24

Website:      www.dickenswomen.com

Tickets:       www.qpac.com.au

What:             Miriam Margolyes in Dickens’ Women – GOLD COAST

                           Presented by Andrew McKinnon Fine Entertainment

Venue:           Gold Coast Arts Centre

Date:              March 21

Website:        www.dickenswomen.com

Tickets:         http://www.theartscentregc.com.au

Miriam Margolye – Biography

She is a British award-winning actress who has achieved success on both sides of the Atlantic as well as in Australia. Winner of the BAFTA Best Supporting Actress award in 1993 for The Age of Innocence, she also received Best Supporting Actress at the 1989 LA Critics Circle Awards for her role in Little Dorrit and a Sony Radio Award for Best Actress in 1993 for her unabridged recording of Oliver Twist. She was the voice of the Matchmaker in Mulan & Fly, and the mother dog in one of Australia’s most successful films Babe.
Major film credits during her long and celebrated career include Yentl, Little Shop of Horrors, I Love You To Death, End of Days, Sunshine,Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, Cold Comfort Farm and Magnolia. She starred in Stephen Hopkins’ The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,Modigliani, Istvan Szabo’s Being Julia and Ladies in Lavender (dir. Charles Dance, with Dames Smith & Dench). Margolyes was Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Most recently, Margolyes appeared in The Dukes, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (with Simon Pegg) and Blind Man’s Bluff.
Most memorable TV credits include Old Flames, Freud, Life and Loves of a She Devil, Blackadder, The Girls of Slender Means, Oliver Twist, The History Man, Vanity Fair and Supply and Demand. Her 2004 BBC TV documentary series Dickens in America was a worldwide success. In May 2010, she starred in the UK TV series, MERLIN.
In 2002, H.M The Queen awarded Miriam the Order of the British Empire for her services to Drama.

In the early years of the twenty-first century, we still sometimes see the world as a ‘Dickensian’ place. On the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth, we look at how his example and his creations live on. Dickens was one of the greatest of Victorians, but this seminar is about the Dickens who continues to be our contemporary. What do today’s writers still learn from him? What do readers of fiction expect because of him? What would he write – and what would he write about – if he were alive today? Dickens was a writer who broke the rules of tasteful composition. He revelled in caricature and hyperbole; he rifled the language for absurd idioms and resonant clichés; he loved the grotesque. Are his stylistic freedoms still available to writers today? He was also a satirist who was confident he knew the difference between good and evil. He was always ready to step into his novel to exhort or lecture his readers. Can contemporary novelists draw on the same moral fervour? He wrote novels that seemed to be about what was called ‘the condition of England’; he sometimes seemed to anatomise a whole nation. Do we still hope that novelists will take on such a task? Is it even possible to do so?

– Professor John Mullan

Dickens' Dream (unfinished) by Robert William Buss (1804 - 1875)