Posts Tagged ‘Michael Attenborough





QTC and Grin & Tonic Theatre Troupe

QPAC Playhouse

March 24 – April 13 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


With Super Star funding to bring out one of the UK’s most respected directors, a stellar local cast and Queensland’s original Shakespearean company co-producing QTC’s Macbeth, what could go wrong? At first glance, absolutely nothing, it’s perfect! Isn’t it? It must be… But then there’s that thing that happens when you leave the theatre and don’t know what to say about a show. And then ponder it for well over a week before writing anything about it. And then ever so vaguely fear the repercussions for speaking a different truth. But not really. But… Well, you know.


After much thought, it appears even to me that I should see this production again. My response after the first viewing is troublesome, and apparently, starkly contrasting to popular opinion. I know this because we had our first 2014 Matilda Award committee meeting last week and the discussion centred around the fact that others are raving about Macbeth. That’s okay. Great! What would we have to talk about if we all agreed on everything? The fact here is that I left this show unsettled for all the wrong reasons. I’m so disappointed that I’m so disappointed.




Strangely, but not, the stars of the show are the set, sound and lighting. Simone Romuniuk’s design is incredible, fantastic, all the superlatives, comprising from the deepest recesses of her intriguing mind, ancient trees bound in places in bandages and promising fairy folk or some other population of wild, climbing, cajoling forest creatures (although not delivering – we’ll get to that) and multiple levels – wide, deep steps that serve as the floor of each place in the play, all magically lit by David Walters against an eerie soundscape by Phil Slade.


The opening moments are truly magnificent, despite going on for slightly longer than necessary. The powerful impact of the first few flashes of bright white light and the beating of battle drums is diminished after several moments, nevertheless succeeding in setting the high-stakes and raising our expectations. Mine are not entirely met. I don’t feel for anyone other than Banquo and Macduff, and eventually, it’s true, for Lady Macbeth, because what woman doesn’t recognise the self-doubt, self-loathing and slow descent into madness after the manipulation of a man has gone horribly wrong? Just saying.




The witches – those infamous wyrd sisters – come organically from the earth; writhing, twisting and melting into one another, in the best sense of the words. It’s a bit too Wakakirri and I don’t love it but others appear to. OMG THEY LOVE IT. Perhaps they are the few who haven’t seen the like before. Perhaps they don’t get out much. Something similar this way comes quite often when we combine the female form, contemporary dance, dirt, body paint and torn bits and pieces of costumes that serve as only a semblance of modesty. (What? Ohhhh, the school bookings! Right!). Despite the highly physical performances and their clear commitment to the roles, I feel that Ellen Bailey, Courtney Stewart, and particularly Lauren Jackson, are underutilised. (Jackson shines in a different light for a moment as Lady MacDuff).



And look, if there’s a Year 12 cohort looking for Semester 2 Physical Theatre inspiration, by all means…



But what strikes me is this: why have that awesome set towering over them and not have them appearing out of it (and disappearing into it)? I was literally waiting with baited breath to see the witches drop down from Romaniuk’s trees and scramble up their immense trunks, never really leaving the space. Imagine noticing, from time to time, as the plot thickens, each gorgeous figure stretched out along a twisted, damaged limb high above us, watching the entire world of the play unfold…




Jason Klarwein’s Macbeth is at first glance dark and brooding and moody and…mostly shallow. There, I said it. There are moments – glimpses – of the real thing but I don’t very often feel I can believe him with so much surface level stand and deliver going on. What’s worse, and deeply inconsiderate, is that Klarwein gives his Lady Macbeth nothing; there is no connection between he and Veronica Neave, at least not for us, and while she works hard at it, Neave lacks the intensity, ferocity and super sexiness of the manipulative (merry) murderess. (She could do with a little more Velma Kelly-ness. It wasn’t until later, when I was washing the blood off my hands, I even knew they were dead.) It’s her eyes wide shut scary obsession with the blood on her hands, which finally convinces me of Neave’s take on the famous wife. In the most controlled, contained manner, she gives everything she’s got and it’s affecting to say the least.



And what about the boys? Well, let’s just get this out of the way. Wouldn’t you think getting so many good-looking males on stage demands a shamelessly exhibitionist, shirtless, all-in sweaty bloody brawl *or something* at some stage? Yes, I thought so. A missed opportunity, after some fighting falls a little flat. Not the extreme violence we were warned about. However, no matter how desensitised we might be, Macbeth’s death is just about as bloody as it gets, and it’s a fantastic, highly theatrical moment. It’s actually, ironically, as real as we’re ever gonna’ get on stage. Interestingly, like Neave’s, it’s Klarwein’s final convincing moments that resonate most with me. I enjoy performances by Steven Rooke, Thomas Larkin, Timothy Dashwood and Lucas Stibbard, but the standouts are Andrew Buchanan as Macduff, who is as broken as he can be upon learning about the death of his family, and Tama Matheson as Banquo, who is just perfection, obviously. Can we keep him now? These two, vocally and emotionally pitch perfect from the outset, along with the fine enunciation and vocal expression from every cast member, make this Macbeth a dream for English teachers and students, thousands of them apparently, and that can only be a good thing. How wonderful to get every word perfectly clearly, when so often it’s the Round Robin reading of the play or the attendance at a less precise production that turns a student off Shakespeare for life. Director, Michael Attenborough, has given us that at least. So while it’s not my favourite staging, it may well be yours.


Yes. It’s the Macbeth we had to have, and far from turning anyone off Shakespeare, it’s placed the bar in a rather odd spot, neither raising or lowering it, but offering something plainer than it is wrapped up to appear and without cinematic images flickering across its dense set (I know right? This is a good and novel thing!), which will wow the first timers, satisfy the English teachers, and well and truly suffice for all those smart enough to keep quiet when good money has been supposedly well spent. Oops. Okay. Clearly, I don’t fit any of those descriptors and I don’t feel this production was a good fit for me.






None of this changes the fact that you must see it. In fact, I’m sure you already have done. Good. See you at A Tribute of Sorts.



A Season of stories for QTC in 2014 – Season Launch

A season of stories to star on stage for Queensland Theatre Company in 2014


Sadly, despite our best efforts, we didn’t get to the launch today. We left the Sunshine Coast in plenty of time after a lovely morning of pancakes and pool time with gorgeous friends, but stopped still in heavy south-bound traffic well before the Caloundra/Landsborough exit, and I knew that even if the pace were to pick up before Caboolture, we’d be turning up at QPAC halfway through the event! So I had to call it. We took the exit and took off up the mountain instead! Poets Cafe was the perfect place to sit on the terrace overlooking the forest and the sea, with scones and iced tea, and retweet the tweeters in attendance at the launch! THANK YOU TWITTERATI! Thanks to you all, we were able to keep up with the proceedings and the exciting announcements about QTC’s Season 2014 AS WESLEY ANNOUNCED THEM.


Seriously, how good is social media?!



Here’s the official press, and on The Other Blog you’ll find out more about our afternoon NOT at the official function. (Oh. But perhaps not until after school tomorrow. I’m back on class this week! Goodnight!).


The story – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, 

but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” Ursula K. Le Guin



Australia Day – The Mountaintop – Macbeth – The Effect

Gloria – Black Diggers – Gasp! – A Tribute of Sorts – The Magic Hour



A season of stories. Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) today unveiled its much anticipated Season 2014, and it did not disappoint. Artistic Director Wesley Enoch announced seven powerful mainstage productions including a world premiere and two Australian premieres and a cast lineup including an internationally acclaimed Director, a world famous writer and a season of stories starring Australia’s greatest actors.


Enoch said QTC’s Season 2014 would be a year of important story-telling; of productions that would move and motivate audiences.


“There is a very real focus on Australian work in 2014 with 75% of the season Australian plays, and for good reason – Australian stories and storytellers are amongst the very best in the world,” he said.  “We will see a tripling of works being commissioned, we have two productions in association with local groups and four co-productions – this is exciting for us and for our audiences,” he said.


“Season 2014 is one that audiences will thoroughly enjoy – it is laced with humour, emotion, conflict, questions and adventure. It is also a season that nurtures our stars – we are very proud to present four works by female playwrights, and welcome two female directors, as well as celebrating a 45% increase in the number of actors across the season compared to this year.”


Arts Minister Ian Walker announced that Queensland Theatre Company had been successful in its application for the Newman Government’s Super Star Fund. The funding will go towards Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to be directed by internationally renowned theatre director Michael Attenborough CBE.


“Michael Attenborough creates high-impact, contemporary Shakespeare that really thrills audiences,” he said. “This Queensland exclusive will be a unique experience for our audiences. It will deliver the benefits of cultural tourism to the south east of the state, undoubtedly attracting many theatre lovers from interstate. There will also be rewards for Queensland artists with workshops and a mentorship and the development of an education show by Grin & Tonic, I am Macbeth, to be toured to Queensland schools and regionally in 2014.”


The Season 2014 story opens in January at the Playhouse with the bang-up-to-the-moment barbecue-stopper of a comedy that questions the national identity in Australia Day. As the brains behind Sydney Theatre Company’s wickedly satirical institution The Wharf Revue, writer Jonathan Biggins has his finger firmly on the pulse of Aussie culture, and tells this story with wit and wisdom. Andrea Moor, director of this year’s smash hit Venus in Fur, directs again, and for actor Paul Bishop, who plays the Mayor, this material is comfortably close to home – when he’s offstage, he is a Redlands City Councillor on Brisbane’s bayside.


Insightful and provocative, The Mountaintop is a lively, funny, moving and magical look back at the life of one of the most inspirational men to walk the Earth in Dr Martin Luther King Jr – but far from putting him on a pedestal, it’s a warts-and-all portrait of a human being, culminating in a blistering recap of decades of civil rights history, right up to the present day.


Penned by brilliant young Memphis playwright Katori Hall, it was a West End and Broadway sell-out and an Olivier Award-winner. Making his Queensland Theatre Company debut, Pacharo Mzembe shines as King while vivacious actress, activist and hip-hop sensation Candy Bowers dazzles as Camae.


In March, QTC presents the classic story, Macbeth – the original Game of Thrones -directed by British theatre royalty Michael Attenborough, in association with 40-year veteran Brisbane theatre troupe Grin & Tonic and starring a cast of 15 superb actors. Jason Klarwein and Veronica Neave star as the royal couple with blood on their hands, heading an all-star local cast featuring Tama Matheson, Andrew Buchanan, Thomas Larkin, Kevin Spink, Steven Rooke, Lucas Stibbard, Tim Dashwood and Christopher Beckey.


In July, QTC leaves the Playhouse until September, making its home in the Bille Brown Studio (BBS).


The Effect is the story of a struggle for dominance between the clinical order of science, and the roiling chaos of the human heart. A co-production with Sydney Theatre Company, it was written by young British playwright Lucy Prebble, author of West End and Broadway hit ENRON and TV’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl. The Effect stars Queenslander Anna McGahan, recently seen on the small screen in House Husbands, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Underbelly: Razor.


A new Australian work, commissioned by QTC, by Brisbane playwright Elaine Acworth is the next story to be told. Gloria is a play about grace and grandchildren, about memory – and for anyone who’s ever stumbled over putting a face to a name, or called an object a ‘thingummy’. It’s a play where music takes centre stage, weaving together Gloria’s rapidly fraying memories and brings together an all-Brisbane cast led by stage powerhouse, Christen O’Leary (End of the Rainbow, Bombshells) as Gloria.


Marking the return to the Playhouse in September is a powerful Australian work –Black Diggers.


One hundred years ago, about a thousand Indigenous Australians took up arms to fight in World War I. For them, battle on a Gallipoli beach was an escape from the shackles of racism at home. Black Diggers draws from interviews with families of men who heard the call – men who now step from the blank pages of history to share their stories. Directed by Wesley Enoch and written by Tom WrightBlack Diggers presented in association with Sydney Festival and Brisbane Festival; the cast is headed by the talented Luke Carroll, last seen playing a soldier in a very different war in QTC’s Mother Courage.


The finale for the mainstage Season is a work by one of the world’s leading writers and comedians, Ben Elton. Gasp! is a breathtaking, brilliantly funny satire on the heartlessness of big business. Continuing QTC’s fertile collaboration with Western Australia’s Black Swan State Theatre Company, Gasp! draws cast members from Brisbane and Perth. First performed in London in 1990, starring Hugh Laurie, Gasp! was the playwriting debut for stand-up comic Elton (The Young Ones and Blackadder).


Supporting the mainstage Season are two productions that tell stories in the BBS. May sees two productions – A Tribute of Sorts which is an artful, dark, morbidly funny celebration of the art of theatre itself, and The Magic Hour, where actor and singer Ursula Yovich breathes new life into the fables collected by the Brothers Grimm.


The season announced today leads a full program of touring, education, children’s shows and more.


Season Tickets on sale