Posts Tagged ‘Roma Street Parklands

08
Sep
18

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble

Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre

August 23 – September 8 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Presented in rep with Hamlet, directed by Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble AD Rob Pensalfini

 

the single assumption which makes our existence viable – that somebody is watching…

 

Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, about the misadventures of the messengers, two minor characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is treated with due respect, and new and delicious humour by Director, Rebecca Murphy, and the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble. Admittedly, I hadn’t seen a QSE production for some time; like Brisbane Arts Theatre, they suffered a period of sameness for a little while there, not that it ever appeared to hurt ticket sales (who doesn’t love Shakespeare in the park!?), and I think it’s safe to say that both companies are back now, with fresh energy and some new approaches to staging some of the most accessible theatre in Brisbane by considering carefully the work they produce, ensuring its broad appeal and affordability. Perhaps QSE have always taken this approach (their training has certainly remained one of the most highly regarded by performers).

 

In a contemporary context, as the director notes, QSE’s continuing work with their Shakespeare Beyond: Shakespeare Prison Project adds gravitas to the waiting Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do. We feel the hopelessness of their situation. And the stubborn attempts to continually discover joy in tiny moments. Because, would we choose despair?

 

 

#teacherlyf in a delightful Drama Department means that I get to go with the kids to see the shows they have to review. Some of these are so insightfully written that I would like to share them here. Alana? Anyone? We took Year 11s and 12s to Roma Street Parklands to see R&G (not to be confused, when you see that, it’s an easy mistake, with R&J), and they loved it. Of course they love a night out together too so if you can host a whole bunch of them at your venue, do let me know. They’re great for business; they’re super polite, they eat heaps, they share amusing stories and they Snapchat it all. You’ll adore them.

 

Murphy’s production plays with the traditional casting, and while the gender-blind approach is nothing new (UM. SHAKESPEARE) it could be considered a diabolical error of judgement if the actors are not up to the task. Fortunately, our titular characters are played to the hilt by fine fellows, Ellen Hardistry (Rosencrantz, and in the BAT 2012 production, Hamlet’s mother) and Paige Poulier (Guildenstern). The other crowdpleaser/scene stealer/all-round charismatic and effortlessly funny guy here is Colin Smith (First Player and the English Ambassador), a long-time favourite of mine, and of this ensemble. You may have seen him recently in any number of QT productions. Is he a bit of a Brisbane darling? He can claim it. But everyone admirably plays their parts, injecting excellent energy with their highly physicalised characterisations and animated facial expressions juxtaposed against well considered dynamic stillness. The ensemble scenes are really great lessons in directing and sustaining focus. 

 

 

As the not-quite-as-bright Rosencrantz, Hardistry approaches the text lightly and sustains childlike commitment to every thought uttered aloud, while Poulier adds necessary weight to Guildenstern’s authoritarian manner. Their games are delightful and the wordplay is fast-paced and precisely directed, and so well practised there’s barely a stumble, even with the awkward pauses that allow for stifled giggles, snorts, whispered comments and LOLs from this student audience. These moments are also hilarious. At times it feels like LOLbar at Solbar (speaking of which, Josh Lyons, a special guest in our most recent production presented with Two Braids Collective, is a standout Player). We almost expect to hear a heckler’s comment from the crowd. But of course, everyone is very polite and well behaved, even when the witty references get a little bit naughty.

 

Hardistry and Poulier establish from the outset the kind of friendly intelligent/inane banter that drives a friend insane after long periods of it, and in fact this is what happens. It’s no spoiler, it’s Stoppard; there’s going to be conflict in the conversations, or where else? Guildenstern eventually takes umbrage with the innocent insistence of Rosencrantz to continue playing the same gorgeous, engaging, childish games, and discussing the same simple topics over and over and over and over…………. the very point, that there’s no point in insisting there is an end, until the end comes. And knowing their fate before they do, we feel some of the absurdity of life, and by the same token, the absurdity of wasting it by…waiting. 

 

 

The space, refreshingly reversed, means the audience is seated at the back and along the sides of the amphitheatre’s stage, and we see the scenes from Hamlet played out in the terraced seating bank. This keeps us appropriately distanced from these events, allowing us to consider our perception and/or judgement of Hamlet’s behaviour and how it is perceived by the Danish court, and that perhaps, as succinctly discussed in Jasper Jones, the greater the distance, the less we care.

 

The musicians are the versatile members of the company, and we find our way to our seats after passing them at the top of the stairs. The music is fantastic, adding merriment and a relaxed end-of-the-week (FRIYAY) mood before the fun and games even begin, even as we approach the amphitheatre, having crossed the footbridge to reach it and hearing the sounds long before seeing the band. Magical!

 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a tough one to get right. Rebecca Murphy and QSE have created a highly entertaining and engaging contemporary production, succeeding in every aspect. Let’s hope it stays in the repertoire, giving us a chance to see it again sometime.

 

 

30
Nov
11

a midsummer night’s dream – usq alumni theatre

Colourful, highly physical and mostly funny, the USQ Theatre Alumni’s inaugural production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is bringing Roma Street Parkland to life for another week.

Shakespeare in the Park Festival, Toowoomba

My little family needed no encouragement to prepare a picnic and set up on the grass steps of the amphitheatre, a venue that begs greater use by Brisbane theatre companies. The last production we enjoyed there was Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble’s Twelfth Night, when Poppy was still in a pram. That’s not to say the place has stood unused since then, it’s just that when one drives from the Sunshine Coast for an outdoor performance, one must consider the weather forecast. As it happened, I had arranged to see the show Thursday night. The day was windy and rainy and the night sky was looking ominous. We decided to see the show on Friday night, under clearer skies, consequently missing Zen Zen Zo’s show in Montville (much closer to home)!

Scott Alderdice has in parts, cleverly directed this Dream. Terrific, fun physical comedy supports the text between the lovers particularly and the use of scaffold and some of the pop music (some of it was repetitive or just too much) allows for vibrant energy and pure joy, most noticeable in the energetic, well rehearsed dance routines (choreography by Christine Strahan with Fight Choreography by Nigel Poulton).

Fairies and lovers are clad in tattered, layered costumes, boasting rich colour and texture, in contrast to the set, which is a simple matter of three scaffold towers on castors and two enormous white flowers in lieu of a cyc (DesignerCarolyn Taylor-Smith). There are two lighting credits in the program, Ben Andrews (Lighting Designer) and Keith Clark (Lighting Realiser) and whilst we enjoy some pretty effects, what is not realised is the need for more light on actors’ faces.

Kate Murphy & Matthew Walsh. Photography by Damian Herd

Within this company there are, as in any newly formed group, some standouts and some bad habits displayed very well by other members. The bad habits surprise me. A leading institution known (among other things) for its vocal work, is letting its Alumni mutter and then shout their lines? I think not. I think inexperience is evident in a few delivery issues and I hope these will be remedied when performers remember that volume does not equate to energy levels. In short, I expect to clearly hear The Bard’s words next time!

On that – and I’m ready to duck for cover – are we really still needing every word? Is it time we put Shakespeare under the knife? A good Dramaturg could certainly give it a go (and then there’s Short + Sweet Shakespeare but more of that later)! It might be that, like David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Rabbit Hole, adapted for the screen by the playwright, there is simply an alternative way to get the story across. It’s just an example – it came immediately to mind, having talked about it with someone recently – because structurally, the story probably works better as it unfolds in the film. But rather than major structural change, A Midsummer Night’s Dream might just need a few clever cuts. It’s just a thought remember…purists; you may throw at me whatever is nearest!

Hannah Ellis & Lucy Reed. Photography by Damian Herd

Most impressive is Matthew Walsh, as Lysander, full of spritely energy that could just as easily transfer to the role of Puck or to that of a Mechanical. But Lysander he is and as the young lover, he gives us fresh-faced determined and cheeky love that knows no bounds. The running fight that occurs with Demetrius (Ben Rigby/Christopher Hunter) is hilarious – it always reminds me of the fight scenes in Bridget Jones and so I don’t mind telling you that I actually expected, in this semi-contemporary version, to hear, stopping and starting, The Darkness screeching I Believe in a Thing Called Love or Gerri Halliwell belting out It’s Raining Men!

Demetrius and the girls – Helena (Emily Curtain) and Hermia (Kate Murphy) – take a little while to warm up but when they do, Act 2 belongs to The Lovers. Helena, suitably tall and gangly, and Hermia, appropriately puppet-like in her costume and makeup, eventually establish together, a wonderful BFF relationship. Curtain’s comedic talent particularly, is showcased in this role.

Shannon Haegler, Kate Murphy, Matthew Walsh, Sasha Janowicz. Photography by Damian Herd

Titania (Lauren O’Rourke) is absolutely beautiful in her faery gowns, moving gracefully and singing strongly at first but leaning towards the pitchy end of the spectrum as she grows tired by the end of a particularly big musical number early in the show – too big – and it seems a shame to show us so much, rather than just a taste, like getting to know somebody too well or getting an honest response to the daily query, “How ARE you?” Certainly, when we see a show, we want to see “show fit” performers (and, as performers, we aspire to it; in fact, there is a performing arts school currently auditioning down south that has built itself upon the whole “show fit” triple-threat premise). Perhaps, in this case, the demands were a little too high. Having said that, O’Rourke is an absolute treat to watch (I love her spoken work and her mannerisms, as self-assured in the role of Hippolyta as she is in that of the Faery Queen). She is well matched with her Oberon (Sasha Janowicz). Janowicz has the most commanding presence on stage and as Theseus, his vocal skill and posture give us clear indication of the proud, authoritarian Athenian. But in the forest, I always feel Oberon must be omnipresent and when he is not, I wonder what he is up to! This is no criticism of Janowicz’s work, which is by far the most competent, but an observation of the choices made by the director and an ever-present thought about how much of the original work do we honour in a production? Again, is it a question of staying faithful to the text (and, in this case, what we can only guess might be the intent of the playwright) or do we imagine those moments in between and simply make up a little more of it?!

Lauren O'Rourke & Sasha Janowicz. Photography by Damian Herd

Puck should be a little monkey-friend/pet/servant, loyal and attentive to the point of annoyance but more often than not, there is no physical or emotional bond between he/she and his/her master. Or not enough. To me, they are the puppeteers and too often are dealt with as separate entities, despite having wonderful dialogue together and, as is the case in this production, some very clever and well punctuated, physical comedy; Oberon gesturing to lasso and draw Puck (Hannah Ellis) to him, Puck choking and spluttering as the imaginary rope tightens around her neck. The relationship on stage could benefit from even more play, as master and chief mischief-maker. A bit like Shrek and Donkey. Seriously!

Hannah Ellis & Sasha Janowicz. Photography by Damian Herd

This is mostly a really lovely production and there is potential for this company to make its mark on Queensland theatre and on our slight obsession with Outdoor Shakespeare. But the next collective need to narrow their focus and decide what it is they want the company (or at least, the next production) to be. What “sort” of Shakespeare is it? I don’t mind if it’s a different mode and style of delivery every time – I love it all – but it needs to be clear, and confident enough in its own skin so that we feel comfortable too, for two or three hours in the world created by these Athenians and magical creatures.

This review published originally on briztix.com

18
Nov
11

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – USQ Alumni

Direct from the University of Southern Queensland’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival!

PREVIEWS START TONIGHT!

Directed by Scott Alderdice and designed by Carolyn Taylor-Smith, USQ Theatre Alumni Inc presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream from TONIGHT until December 4th, at Roma Street Parkland Ampitheatre.

Hannah Hellis & Sasha Janowicz

Season Details:

Fri 18 + Sat 19 Nov $20 preview

Thu 24 – Sun 27 Nov and Thu 1 – Sun 4 Dec

$30 Adult $20 Conc $15 Groups 10+ / Child under 12

7.00pm gates open at 5.30pm

Hannah Hellis & Lucy Reed

Tickets on sale NOW!

Visit moshtix.com.au (group bookings available only via phone booking 1300 438 849)

If you’re expecting to turn up and secure tix at the gate GOOD LUCK! And bring cash.

Cast:

Oberon/Theseus – Sasha Janowicz
Titania/Hippolyta – Lauren O’Rourke
Demetrius – Christopher Hunter
Helena – Emily Curtin
Hermia – Kate Murphy
Lysander – Matthew A Walsh
Puck – Hannah Ellis
Cupid/Philostrate – Shannon Haegler
Moth/Snout – Kate Hillocks
The Burning Arrow – Samantha Raaen
Egeus/Peasblossom/Snug- Lucy Fox
Votress/Quince – Laura Trenerry
Starveling/Mustarseed – Jemima Strambini
Bottom – Toby Warburton
Cobweb/Flute -Jordana Widt

So have you booked yet?

Hear more from Lysander. Then book your tix and get your picnic packed (no glass)!