Posts Tagged ‘revenge

01
Sep
15

TITUS

 

TITUS

The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble

Roma Street Parklands

August 19 – September 6 2015

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

 

After a decade of war against the Goths, the Roman general, Titus Andronicus, returns home victorious but battle-weary. He brings with him Tamora, the fallen Goth queen, and her sons as prisoners. In an act of ritual sacrifice to the gods, Titus kills Tamora’s eldest son, fuelling a bloody and unrelenting cycle of revenge between himself and Tamora. Violent acts are met with more violent deeds, blurring the line between victim and perpetrator.

 

Seen through the eyes of modern day Australia, Zoë Tuffin’s production serves to remind us of our most primal human instincts. When we have a brutal act committed against us, as an individual or as a nation, our baser instincts are awakened and we demand justice.

 

 

But justice can turn to revenge with alarming ease and blood be answered with blood.

 

 

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Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s bloody and gruesome tragedies that feeds on revenge and retribution, leaving few alive, who in turn suffer the same horrors as their predecessors. Sounds like our current political system… Under the direction of Zoe Tuffin, The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble is tackling one (out of many) of the bard’s epic texts in their adaptation, TITUS.

 

The mood before the show commences is celebratory and jovial as part of the cast forms what can only be described as a medieval rock band, The Gloves of Blood, playing live music. General Titus Andronicus, played by Rob Pensalfini, is clad in garb fit for the battlefield as he sings while strumming a tiny ukulele. His sister Marta, played by Anthea Patrick, wears a flowing gown as she bashes at the drums. This pre-show performance feels an odd way to lead into the main-show, although it prefaces this adaptation, which continues to surprise and subvert expectations.

 

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Tuffin’s knowledge of dissecting a Shakespearean play shines through her direction, as she not only explores the darkness of the text, but also embraces the comedy.

 

 

There are moments where the ensemble revel in the complete absurdity of a scene, leaving the audience howling with laughter. This in turn creates different perceptions of particular characters. Silvan Rus who plays Aaron is a stand-out, embodying the words flying out of his mouth with controlled speed and precision. He infuses the character, who is one of the villains in the play, with such an abundance of charm and charisma that the audience can’t help but adore him. Lavinia, played by Johancee Theron, has the most harrowing character through-line and yet Theron’s facial expressions and storytelling through movement and mime are hilariously tragic.

 

The Parkland’s amphitheatre provides an epic backdrop – a salute to Ancient Rome – with the audience seated onstage among the actors, looking out at the tiers of seats. Tuffin took full advantage of the space, so that not all the action is centre stage. A mention must be given to Steven Tibbits for his beautifully understated lighting design. The simplicity of each state helps forge the tone of every scene without becoming overwhelming.

 

Do not let the two hour run time deter you from seeing this vivacious and entertaining work; time is seriously a non-issue.

 

The ensemble unifies to deliver a fast-paced extravaganza, keeping the audience engaged and leaving little opportunity to tune out. The play is timeless and reveals the cyclical nature of human behaviour. Can we ever truly learn from history and evolve? Are we meant to? Or is all the world a stage of repetitions?

 

 

 

 

22
May
15

The Apology

 

The Apology

Zeal Theatre Queensland & Shock Therapy Productions

Boggo Road Gaol

May 12 – 23 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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People think I run away after a show if I’ve hated it but that’s not always true. It’s sometimes true, but not always. On Tuesday night I was so affected by The Apology that I ran away so no one would see how upset I was. I was overwhelmed, on the verge of tears…

 

 

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Unfortunately, we’d been locked in. The gate through which we’d entered Boggo Road Gaol was locked and barred from the inside (keeping inmates safe since 1883?), so I composed myself for a moment while the lovely box office girl raced up to let me out. I had to smile and say something so I thanked her and said I’d email Sam the following day. (And I did so because PRODUCTION PICS!). And then I let the tears fall, all the way to Aspley before I knew where I was. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at navigating Brisbane at night during Anywhere Theatre Festival, I can tell you.

 

 

I wasn’t sobbing, don’t worry; it wasn’t a desperate outpouring of something so intense or personal only live theatre could unlock it (but that’s happened before). It was an overwhelming feeling of responsibility (well, it’s impossible to teach kids without investing emotionally). Also, contributing factors including I was really tired and feeling fed up with driving and road works and well, young men in utes on the freeway are just so RUDE sometimes, aren’t they? And I’d been to dinner the night before with the awesome Matty Anderson and his Melbourne Storm Development Academy boys and I looked up at those young faces and their wide eyes full of high hopes, and talked with those who have been around a bit longer than they have been about footy, bullying, rape culture, human trafficking, daughters and… I HAD A LOT ON MY MIND.

 

 

ANYWAY, I suddenly felt really strongly that everyone everywhere needed to see this show.

 

 

AND HOW DO WE MAKE THAT HAPPEN, MR BRANDIS?

 

 

Well, thanks to Artslink Qld it’s been happening, during an extensive schools’ tour since 2004. I hadn’t realised, having not heard about it, which is unusual and adds weight to the discussion about the need for a Sunshine Coast secondary drama teachers’ network-not-just-panel.

 

 

So students and teachers from Weipa to Warwick, Mt Isa to Mackay, and Gladstone to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast have already experienced (Writer & Director) Stefo Nantsou’s hardcore two-hander, The Apology, but somehow I’d missed it until now. Other Zeal Theatre Queensland productions have been touring and winning great acclaim for years too. Who knew?

 

 

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The Apology is an example of Zeal Theatre’s signature style of doing as much as possible with as little as possible.

 

 

The infamous Brisbane Prison features in the show – it’s the setting for an incident that occurs during a Year 9 excursion, a terrifying experience that alters the course of a young boy’s life. What was intended as a cruel “joke” ends up having horrific repercussions…repercussions that we know really happened. The Apology is based on a true story.

 

 

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The text is fairly authentic without being offensive; the language, including those relentless and so-called “innocent” jibes uttered “just for fun”, which kids learn from somewhere (where do they learn to speak to each other that way?!) are delivered slowly and tauntingly, like a knife being removed from the spleen, or as quick, sharp stabs straight to the heart, depending on the character involved.

 

 

Just two actors, Sam Foster & Hayden Jones, perform all the characters (and Foster plays a pretty mean guitar too, the compositions and volume ideal in this haunted, haunting space).

 

 

This accomplishment is so much more impressive than I can write about here. The mastery with which these two employ the slightest change in vocal and facial expression, posture, gesture and gait (or adjust the angle of a baseball cap) to keep the story moving at a rapid pace will win over even the most skeptical non-theatre-attending fourteen year old!

 

 

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As exhilarating as the pace might feel at times (and not forgetting it’s very funny), there’s not an empathetic moment missed. And this is the magic. A less confident team might gloss over critical moments but instead we are left sitting in silence and stillness for juuuuust long enough to start to feel uncomfortable…and inexplicably guilty.

 

 

Shouldn’t we be doing something?! Somebody tell him to stop it! STOP!

 

 

I’ve never sat in an audience and felt so conflicted about sitting still and paying attention without interjecting. Well, there have been committee meetings that have come close but…there were times when I wanted to sit “the Eneme” (Foster) down and tell him, “You don’t need to be that guy” and times when I wanted to give Ray Bones (Jones) a big hug and tell him, “You don’t need to be that guy!” by which he would have been discomforted and unresponsive, walked away. I know this because we feel as if we know the characters well enough to do this; to intercede, to protect, to prevent harm… N.B. At no point did I feel compelled to punch the Eneme in the head. I think that’s important, don’t you?

 

 

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The personality and family history brought to the story by Ray’s character is typical and really worrying. His parents are continuously fighting and repeatedly splitting. He has no friends and no sense of self-worth, and his dad’s one hot tip is to pick the right time and fight back! WTF?! And then there’s the downward spiral at school and the principal’s completely inappropriate lectures, the adult behaviour demonstrating the insidious bullying that happens systemically from the top down. Who can even consider getting near enough to him to be able to help Ray? It’s heartbreaking. And then, even more heartbreaking, he picks his moment.

 

 

Within a cleverly styled satirical segment, which is surprisingly upbeat, though it’s just as hard-hitting, we are given the opportunity to stop and consider how we feel about this story and its stakeholders when a television journalist presents the “facts” of the case. A similar device is employed in The Stones, when the boys stand on trial and the audience becomes the jury. To frame the case and recap the story in this way makes it easier for teachers to talk about the themes of the show with their students but it’s probably not necessary to include it for the general public…or is it? Do we need a framework such as this, using comedy and the familiar news report or reality television format, to be able to talk about the too-hard issues? Is it in fact precisely the way we need to frame these serious issues, which are not being treated seriously enough by so many people in authority and in roles that require the care of children?

 

 

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And what about those adults who are speaking to each other in this manner? What about workplace bullying and “mates” who won’t let up? What about the jostling and hustling in the locker room and on the sports field? What about the graduation party that becomes a dangerous game of Truth or Dare? What about the tough guy or girl who doesn’t like what you’re wearing (or “misinterprets” what you’re wearing)? This show could be the precursor to a whole series of hardcore shows that challenge us to reconsider the way we communicate with each other. Perhaps we could have each play filmed and available to download or purchase on DVD. Perhaps we might see the ABC produce a series of episodes for prime time viewing. I’m not kidding. Can you help to make that happen? Let me know if you can.

 

 

Imagine if actually believable stuff using our most talented actors, writers and directors became the new reality TV. (I have wide eyes and high hopes too. Let’s change a culture, kids).

 

 

So now I’m looking out for those other productions in Zeal Theatre’s repertoire, including The Forwards, coming soon to The Arts Centre, Gold Coast. The season runs during the intense lead-up to Noosa Long Weekend Festival (I think it’s actually during my rehearsal week!), but Sam and I are determined to see what Lowdown Magazine says is the company’s “most powerful play”.

 

 

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The Apology is by far the best that Anywhere Theatre Festival has to offer this year, not only because of its perfect placement on the lower floor of Boggo Road Gaol’s historic Number Two Division but because it goes where other shows fear to tread. The writing is unwavering, the direction insightful and unapologetic, and the acting fearless, focused and intelligent.

 

 

I’d love to see this production again if I could, and you shouldn’t miss seeing it at least once.

 

 

You could let a show like this change your life…

 

 

Images by Peter Cabral Photography