Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare

20
Oct
16

Hamlet

Hamlet

heartBeast Theatre

Spring Hill Reservoirs

October 7 – 22 2016

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

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What is it about Shakespeare’s Hamlet? It is the story of a grieving and tortured young man who seeks revenge for his father’s death. Do we sympathise with him? Do we forgive him for his sins? As an audience, we are sucked into the drama, into the madness, into the world being presented before us. There is no doubt a tragic end approaches, though we never stop rooting for the Prince of Denmark.

Why keep telling this story, or any Shakespeare for that matter? There is no denying that the Bard’s words, his language has continued to be a point of investigation; a search to uncover new meaning. Companies are now taking on the challenge to modernise Shakespeare or place his stories into different worlds. Some have been more successful than others.

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HeartBeast’s production of Hamlet is set in a post-apocalyptic world – D-MARK – a High Security Compound. It was my first visit to the Spring Hill Reservoirs and I was immediately transported into another space and time. There was no seating bank. The audience was free to stand or sit wherever they desired, on crates or wooden boxes, and followed the actors as they moved around the compound. There were roughly 10 rooms where the scenes would play out, although I found the spaces other than where the main action was taking place were sometimes more captivating. These “off side” moments were capturing Ophelia in her private moments, or Hamlet meandering around the compound reading or muttering to himself. These were fresh insights into the character’s psyche. Perhaps they were too distracting from the main action at times. I definitely found them more interesting.

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Lighting by Jason Harding and sound design by Paul Young were incredibly detailed, creating a threatening and ominous atmosphere that allowed the audience to sink deep into the drama unfolding in front of them. The sound did overpower the actor’s at times and clarity was lost. The lighting and sound desk also doubled as a monitoring room where Claudius and Gertrude would retreat to spy on Hamlet.

The post-apocalyptic scenario worked as far as placing the story into a new aesthetic. The costumes had a medieval/Viking/space-like/futuristic feel to them that looked great under the lights. There were guns and gas masks. Ophelia had a wire strapped to her chest at one point. These elements were visually pleasing but I was not convinced it enhanced or revamped the story. I wondered what were the reasons behind setting the play in this time? What was happening in the world outside of the bunker? The sound design alluded that there was a war but I only sensed this at the end of a scene when there was an explosion, a drone strike perhaps, and Gertrude and Ophelia hit the ground in fear. That scene was terrifying and I yearned for more of these moments, though it never happened again. I felt this may have been a lost opportunity to raise new and exciting stakes for the characters and push the story into unchartered territory.

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Hamlet is a long play and like any Shakespeare, it is a challenge for the actor’s to keep the audience invested in the story. Grappling with the language and conveying meaning and genuine emotion is paramount. David Paterson who played the leading role delivered a strong and complex performance. He was charming yet extremely dangerous. I must admit I found it difficult to listen to some of the performers. The ladies in particular spoke in high registers as if they were struggling with the acoustics, and the men sometimes spoke with thick Australian accents that was jarring and brought me out of the world. I think the company would have benefitted from a more coherent sound. That being said they were united and invested in each moment.

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HeartBeast’s production of Hamlet dares the audience to participate in the action and not sit back and watch it unfold. I enjoyed the opportunity to view the story from different perspectives and let my imagination interact with the character’s I have grown to know and love. Or do I know them? Do I love them? This work challenges those preconceived perceptions of some of Shakespeare’s well known characters. There are so many elements to this show and some of them work and some fall short of hitting the mark. It is so important to see theatre that makes you question what you like or what you don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work. This High Security Compound is accessible this week only. Head on down to D-Mark.

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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?

 

 

 

 

17
Feb
15

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

La Boite Theatre Co

Roundhouse Theatre

February 11 – March 7 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

“A wildly original take on Shakespeare’s magical romantic comedy.”

 

 

 

 

 

Alright. That may be, but I have a few questions about this one. Firstly…

 

Who killed Kenny?! PUCK?

 

 

 

 

 

So the faery servant is not altogether dead in this production, but he is actually mostly dead. Or, he is reborn as an alien who channels himself using the magic of television. Or whatever. We hear his voice – well, sort of; it sounds eerily similar to the evil voice in The Child, to which I’m currently listening – and we never actually see him. Oh sure, Oberon sees a version of him, but DOES HE EVEN REALLY EXIST? Who’s to say? Read it how you will; of course the absence of Puck will seem awesome and inspired to some, of course – of course! – but to me it smacks of too much cleverness. Why mess with A Midsummer Night’s Dream? I don’t believe Shakespeare’s characters need to be transported to a terribly different time and place in order to make the old stories relevant to new audiences, or whatever, unless you are Sam Mendes. (I do hope you’re keeping up with the NT Live screenings at a cinema near you because THAT is how we reinvent the classics, kids). #ntlive #nuffsaid

 

Where is the magic here?

Because the magic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is its magic.

 

Four awkward teens find themselves entangled in a god-awful love quadrangle. A sextet of amateur drama enthusiasts earnestly rehearse a play for a wedding. The Godfather and Godmother of the fairies are locked in a bitter argument over an adopted child, which they seek to resolve through the careless application of dodgy witchcraft.

 

 

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In Benjamin Schostakowski’s brave reimagining the magic is almost entirely lost. Where are the faeries? Why must Titania speak to them (and for them) when they are clearly, according to this version, not really there? It seems she is going slightly mad! Or is it just me?! Why do we need to dream the Dream so differently? Other than making a mark as a director, putting one’s own stamp on it and all that stuff, why go to such lengths to pluck out and dispose of all of the gleaming, glistening, beautifully coloured tail feathers? As I know it, the Dream is a peacock, or Amazing Mayzie, but now we see it stripped (though not edited; it’s a long show!), and without the magic we are left with Gertrude McFuzz. Before medication. Poor Gertrude. (Sorry, Gertrude).

 

 

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When we re-stage a classic, a well-loved text, we have to ask, “What’s the message now?” What do we want the audience to take away this time? Has this story changed? No. Have these characters changed? No. We still have lovers (and faeries and crazies) among us. In theory, the story and its characters can be thrown into any setting, but in practice does the (insert superlative here) conceptualisation continue to serve the story?

 

Having enjoyed intelligent conversations with so many people about so many productions over so many years I’m ready to hear the triumphant cries of “genius!” And “inspired!” (No doubt I missed most of them at the after party. It was late. There are roadworks every night. There is school every day, and there were four more fabulous shows to get to last week!). I’ve said the same, loudly, about A Tribute of Sorts. I loved it! But Schostakowski’s “wildly original take” on A Midsummer Night’s Dream has missed the mark, despite its moments of inspired genius. Do you know what I love most about this production? That it happened. That Chris Kohn had scheduled it, that Todd Macdonald & co have supported it, that everybody involved was up for something new, exciting and daring and IT HAPPENED.

 

 

BUT THERE IS NO PUCK! FOR PUCK’S SAKE!

 

 

I had high expectations, which prevailed upon sighting Dann Barber’s beautiful, cluttered set (everything brought onto stage stays on stage); it’s an interior not unlike the country house in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (or what the Year 7 drama students might imagine Darkwood House to look like), with a great, grand central staircase and incredible detail in the dressing of the space, right down to the carpet on the stairs, the suitably slightly garish wallpaper, and the props placed on shelves and side tables, creating an old fashioned feeling of the typical homely, cosy, hoarder’s precious mess. It doesn’t strike me as particularly Australian but, y’know, whatever.

 

 

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More importantly, why is there no beauty in it? My initial intrigue turns to dismay when nothing more than the obvious is done: the house is a house is a house. Another missed opportunity perhaps as far as lighting states go (although the next night, at Sex With Strangers, I spoke with Lighting Designer, Jason Glenwright, about it and he didn’t seem to mind in the least), when we have no magical dappled forest lighting. It’s. A. House. I think sometimes the obvious choices annoy me. We see no subtlety, no subtext; everything is exactly as it seems. Except in the acting choices, and perhaps as the lamps flicker… More of that kind of magic too, please!

 

 

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The Mechanicals are another example. They come this close to bringing the house down with their silly antics and sure, they’re funny, but they should in fact be so excruciatingly bad that they become holding-your-belly-hilarious. The performances within The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe are actually fine. Oh, but wait! The most delicious, wicked, tongue-in-cheek comedy comes with the actors’ focus exercises and warm ups! The focus exercise gets me every time, each one a masterclass in comic timing and the magic of a good ensemble. Absolutely hysterical! HA! #sittingacrossfromseanmeelaughing #comedygold

 

It’s a reduced cast, boiled down to six instead of the usual twenty or so, and it’s an inspired (and economically sound) idea that doesn’t quite work. We wait, old-school high school musical scene-change style, for costume changes. Despite being mostly hilarious, and winning over the majority of the opening night audience with his vocal and physical work, Kieran Law’s Lysander, Bottom, Pyramus and the ass are too similar. (For the uninitiated, the latter refers to the donkey he becomes when Bottom is transformed by Puck’s magic spell). And can I say; what a missed opportunity it is to just die! “I die. I die. I die.” And he does. Sigh. Sometimes I wonder how much is the director’s choice, and how much is left to the actor’s discretion? I wonder again as Pacharo Mzembe (Demetrius) runs and leaps about the space shirtless and shining with sweat, months before he will return to this stage in Prize Fighter…is it not yet selling well? Now it will! You know I have no problem with admiring a well maintained male (or female) form on stage (or screen) but what should have been completely natural, joyous and boisterous reeked of  a marketing stunt akin to an etsy crafter friend taking advantage of Ryan Gosling’s memeness to self-promote in your newsfeed. #yesmemenessisawordnow #heygirl

 

 

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There are plenty of lovely moments, to which Law and Mzembe contribute, and the girls are great. There is much to enjoy. After the show, when I wonder aloud at my simultaneous delight and frustration with the four of them, despite mostly gorgeous performances, Julia reminds me, “You have to be in love with the lovers!” OH YES. (Am I? Am I in love with the lovers? Perhaps I would be by the end of the season).

 

 

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Well, if you LOVE Kathryn Marquet you’ll LOVE her sighing, gasping, whimpering, wailing, plain ol’ little Hermia. I loved her Snug, and for what purpose its interpretation I cannot tell you, but I LOVED Marquet’s delivery of what becomes a Slide (Sydney) worthy performance poetry piece (think Maureen in Over the Moon). The interpretive dance, which opens the play within the play? Not so much (Choreographer Neridah Waters). I’m glad many on opening night enjoyed the sequence – it feels like a fond, funny throwback to A Tribute of Sorts – but like so many aspects of the production it’s a token gesture, and perhaps that’s the point. #tryeverythingonce

 

 

 

 

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Speaking of A Tribute of Sorts, of the four lovers, Emily Burton is the standout. Her Helena makes the most sense in this context, and her performance keeps me captivated. Burton has been offered here, like everyone else, a couple of very OTT moments but she’s the only one who manages to make each one completely plausible. Her facial expressions make this Helena more animated than perhaps you’ve seen before, and the effect – she – is beautiful.

 

Christen O’Leary, as you will know if you’re a regular here, is one of my favourite physical performers. She has a voice, yes, and as Hippolyta, she uses it effortlessly to command and cajole. We won’t mention the Helen Howardesque hair. (Why is it we are still all having so much trouble finding perfect wigs for productions? Huh? Please send help!) Anyway, sans wig, as Titania O’Leary flits and flirts and seduces her way around the space like a proper nymph, and I expect more to come of her relationship with Bottom as the ass. There is nothing more yet. It feels, so early in the season, as if they are holding back, being very careful in that bathtub! Somebody send them to Wicked for research! (N.B. There are no complete clips of Steve & Jemma yet, sorry). Anyway, she talks with faeries that are not there and voices their few lines, as I’ve said, creating what comes across as a slightly mad Ophelia vibe. Again, this may have been the vibe we were going for! WHO’S TO SAY? #theresrosemarythatsforremembrance

 

 

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We also enjoy a strong, sure performance from Brian Lipson (Theseus & Oberon), and in both his guises he reminds me of somebody…ah! That’s it! #teamgilfedder

 

 

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There are many who will very loudly, quite rightly adore this production, and thank goodness, because we know from past experience that in the meantime, the critics of the critics will only talk about how wildly I’ve missed the point. Maybe so. But there is something lost in translation here, which cannot be glossed over by a sparkly press release or an over zealous, super supportive review in praise of originality, the rise and rise of the indie theatre makers and the need to support them, and the desire to seduce the next generation, and yet… #stageitandtheywillcome

 

This truly new take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream gives us lots to talk about, and lots to look forward to because it’s clear Schostakowski has a gift. We see its promise, its glimmer, like the Arkanstone tumbling away through the masses of superfluous, distractifying treasure (#sorrynotsorry #ozspeak), and what I’d love to see again now is the return of the trust in the work; a return to the simple magic of theatre, without having to prove a thing, whatever that thing might be.

 

This Dream might be your thing. Find out!

 

Images by Dylan Evans

 

 

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26
Jan
14

shake & stir’s Queensland Youth Shakespeare Festival finalists in The Tempest

 

The Tempest 

Shake & Stir Theatre Co

Brisbane Powerhouse

January 20 – 21 2014

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

We are such stuff as dreams are made on…

 

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Shake & Stir are always putting on something daring. These guys make theatre as if it is it’s own living universe and not a show we have to sit back and watch. It feels like the whole show grows and changes with us on the night and we forget that there were rehearsed lines.

 

The top 30 competitors from the Inaugural QLD Youth Shakespeare Festival combine their powers in this multi-arts exploration of Shakespeare’s late great work, The Tempest.

 

So the top 30 Queensland Youth Shakespeare Festival Finalists who performed Shakespeare’s Tempest last week were nothing short of what Shake & Stir embodies.

 

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works. Simply put, it is the tale of a great storm bringing two lovers together while a magically enhanced father, with the aid of nymphs and other foolish spirits, makes mischief for all on his island. What made this performance equally incredible was that the display of choreography, lighting, acting and atmosphere was pulled together in one week.

 

Matt Walsh, Shake & Stir’s Resident Company Actor, appeared in this production as the great and powerful (and cheeky) Prospero. This is a role familiar to him, and he delivered it with the awe and wit that Prospero would have had were he real and truly ruling his own bizarre island.

 

The students got to add a touch of their own perception to the play too. The experience and opportunity for them was to really delve into a great play that not many have studied. But in understanding the text they first had to compare it to their own perspective. This was done in humourous ways such as the drunkard character Stephano, played by Liam Soden, carrying a sack of “goon”, and the daughter of Prospero – Miranda, played by India Oswin, telling her father he was embarrassing her in front of her crush. This further confirms the argument, which Shake and Stir tackled last year when they asked, is Shakespeare still relevant?

 

This excellent display of young Queensland talent sadly stayed at the Powerhouse for only two nights. But the glorious, oceanic stage was a wonderful sight for those who did get a chance to see it, and support Queensland’s youth, which hopefully we all do from time to time. They are, after all, the future of our industry.

 

Ed’s note:

 

Hot tip for teachers – don’t let your students miss the opportunity to work alongside Shake & Stir, ever. If we could clone these guys and put them into all Australian schools you’d never hear another kid complain about having to study Shakespeare again. There’s no question that Shake & Stir has helped keep Shakespeare not only relevant but vital to Australian school students.

 

Keep an eye out for details about this year’s Queensland Youth Shakespeare Festival and book now, if you haven’t already (you haven’t already?!) for the return season of their fearless and flawless production of Orwell’s 1984 directed by Michael Futcher and featuring Ross Balbuziente, Nelle Lee, Bryan Probets, Nick Skubij & David Whitney at QPAC 15 July – 2 August 2014

 

 

18
Oct
13

Statespeare

 

Statespeare

Shake & Stir Theatre Co and Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

16 October – 17 October 2013

 

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

 

Does Shakespeare really sucketh so much?

 

Is Shakespeare still relevant? It’s the first rehearsal for the year 12’s Performance Task and Lachlan and Nerys know that with their knowledge of The Bard they cannot fail. Their allocated group members Jay and Rob don’t know the difference between Shakespeare and Schwarzenegger.

 

As this mismatched foursome battle it out on the drama room floor they surprise and shock themselves as they gain a greater understanding of Shakespeare’s most famous plays including Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello,The Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet.

 

STATESPEARE is part of the 2013 Inaugural QLD Youth Shakespeare Festival. The Festival gives high school students the chance to compete against other talented Shakespeare fans for the chance to be part of a live Shakespeare stage show. The general public is encouraged to come along to the finals and see the students competing for this exciting opportunity.

 

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Tomorrow (Saturday) is the final day of the QLD Youth Shakespeare Festival! It’s competition day! Get there is you can!

Sat / Competition Sessions 1–4

Session 1 / Duologues 9am
Session 2 / Dance, Music, Photography & Design 11am
Session 3 / Scene Part 1 1pm
Session 4 / Scene Part 2 3pm

 

(each session runs for 90 mins)

 

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At first I balked at the plot of this show. The blurb claimed to keep Shakespeare relevant to adolescents and more specifically, Year 12 students. That in itself is fantastic but what about the audience that isn’t a year 12 student stressing about their O.P.? Is the show still relevant for them? Fortunately, I can say that it is.

 

Whether you’re a student, a drama teacher or a general theatregoer, the quality of Statespeare is remarkable.

 

The performers; Ross Balbuziente, Judy Hainsworth, Nelle Lee & Nick Skubij were all fantastic in their own roles. These four were the original cast. They each seemed made for the part.

 

But credit should go to the two writers of this production too. Nelle Lee, current artistic director of Shake and Stir Theatre Co. originally brought this script to life in 2009. It’s a refreshing take on the “school setting” you might find in a lot of theatre.

 

But she must thank her co-writer as well. He’s been around for a while now. Most people are aware of his work these days. He had biting wit and a great sense of iambic pentameter. Yes, I’m talking about Nelle’s friend William Shakespeare.

 

You don’t need to be a Shakespeare buff to enjoy the show. Nelle Lee and the team select all the best scenes for you, and demonstrate them in humourous and chilling ways.

 

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What I loved about this production is that they actually explain some of the dialogue and scenes in an entertaining way. No one will admit they had no idea what Demetrius in Midsummer’s Night Dream for example might be talking about, but then we don’t have to, after the cast comically demonstrate what’s going on in a modern setting.

 

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This show proves that Shakespeare is relevant for today’s students, and anyone who cares to enjoy a good show. If this were a Senior Drama Performance Task it would easily receive an A+.

 

21
Jun
13

EDC: Natalie Weir’s R&J and Carmen Sweet

 

Natalie Weir’s R&J (Act 1 – Passion) and Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet

Expressions Dance Company

The Noosa Long Weekend Festival

Thursday 20th June 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

 

Rhiannon McLean Carmen Sweet

 

See Barry Alsop’s images here

 

NATALIE WEIR’S R&J (ACT 1 – PASSION) 
From age to age, one classic story is as timeless as love itself… 

Winner of Outstanding Achievement in Choreography at the 2012 Australian Dance Awards, Natalie Weir’s R&J presents three versions of events inspired by the star-crossed lovers at the heart of Shakespeare’s greatest love story. Exclusively for the Noosa Long Weekend, EDC will revisit the explosive first act, transporting audiences to the beating heart of the modern-day club scene where passion and desire erupt in a dangerous and tragic love triangle.  



 

 

NATALIE WEIR’S CARMEN 
This iconic tale of Spanish heat and gypsy passion unravels when naïve soldier Don José has his heart ignited by the fiery Carmen, discarding his childhood sweetheart and deserting the army. Josè’s attempts to tame the freedom-loving beauty are futile, and when she leaves him for the famous toreador Escamillo, all three are engulfed in the flames of jealousy and revenge. Opera’s most famous femme fatale is stripped. Weir’s Carmen is a free spirit; dangerous, volatile and vulnerable, brought to vivid life by three dancers playing her different states of mind and alter egos.

 

The only dance event of the Festival in 2013, Expressions Dance Company (EDC as the rebranding goes), could have sold out twice over. The full house included many young dancers and their mums and dance teachers, from various Sunshine Coast schools and studios. With the Noosa area schools best represented (NPDA REPRESENT!), I couldn’t help but wonder where the rest were. Surely, a chance to se the acclaimed Queensland company on home turf is more appealing than making the trek to Brisbane on a cold, rainy night? I know, sometimes I make that trek up to four nights a week, and it’s really not as bad as many Coasties make out, but I also appreciate seeing so much top notch stuff, so much closer to home during the Festival.

 

Actually, it’s moving day today (can you believe we’re moving house in between rehearsals for West Side Story and The Noosa Long Weekend?), so I haven’t been tweeting much! Tonight I have the opportunity to see David Pomeranz’s Chaplin: A Life. In Concert & Meow Meow, and I’ll be letting you know how both those shows go.

 

EDC did not disappoint (they rarely do). This was indeed, as the Festival program promised, “a delectable double-bill of two enchanting short works.” Poppy and I were excited to see so many young friends in the audience and we enjoyed the buzz before the show began. (We also enjoyed our own little “supper club” at Gaston after the show had ended. Poppy and Jason swapped magic tricks, and we had the best duck spring rolls, dumplings and dessert!).

 

Natalie Weir’s R&J (Act 1 – Passion)

Natalie Weir’s R&J is, I believe, just one version of three – the first act revisited for this performance – and now I wish I’d seen the other two at some stage. It’s not new news, but nevertheless, it’s a bold statement to set this age-old tragic tale in the throbbing modern day dance club scene. Something about setting the story in this environment seemed cruel! But even Poppy, at seven, missed nothing and look, I’m never sorry to have taken her to a more sophisticated re-telling of any classic story…it’s never too soon to start talking about making good choices when it comes to party drugs.

 

Representing a mass of moving bodies on a dance floor can be a challenge, can’t it? But EDC opened this piece with a stunning cinematic scene of writhing figures under coloured lights, which established immediately, a sense of intimacy, urgency and helped to build the anticipation for a well-known story. It’s not like we don’t know how it ends, but the thing about a new take on anything is that we like to see how we GET to the end!

 

The star-crossed lovers are superb in their roles, the passion is there, and we really feel for them, as Juliet becomes the prize in a fight on the dance floor between Romeo and a Capulet dude, whose final blow is a king hit, knocking Romeo unconscious. This gives Juliet the opportunity to demonstrate her grief in a beautifully executed solo before taking a few too many party pills and dying in Romeo’s arms.

 

I’m under the impression we have no new young male dancers on the Coast at the moment, because if we did, they could would should have been there to see these guys. This is the kind of contemporary dance that is easy to watch and wonderful to remember. We know the story, despite the twists and turns in its retelling, and the dance is so good that, unlike when I was growing up dancing and wanted to be living that life on stage, I watch now and want to live that life IN MY LIFE. That applies more to Carmen though. Obviously, I don’t want to OD at a dance party.

 

Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet

I love Bizet’s Carmen. It was my first favourite opera, and for me it still trumps all the rest in terms of story, character, sound, and entertainment value. And this reading of his Carmen absolutely blew me away. With three Carmens in one last night, we were able to consider the various aspects of the famous, flirty, fiery woman. Her vulnerability doesn’t always come through in the opera, but we see it in Weir’s piece. We see the passion, the ambition, the determination, and with just six EDC dancers, to the sumptuous sound of Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite, we see the jealousy, rage, and the ultimate revenge. It was a double-bill of bold love affairs and death!

 

After seeing Sheridan Harbridge perform during her sold-out Supper Club at berardo’s on Wednesday night, her own sexy version of Habanera: “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a rebellious bird), I wasn’t sure how hot this show would be, but hot it was! The dancers are in fine form, and it’s easy to see why Elise May received the Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer Award for her work in this production. She seems to channel every aspect of the sultry, sexy Carmen, and watches while her two alter egos (Michelle Barnett & Riannon McLean) play ruthlessly with her heart and mind. The performances by Daryl Brandwood, Benjamin Chapman, Thomas Gundry Greenfield and Jack Ziesing are equally compelling and technically proficient. I’m so impressed with this show; it left me on a high, and not the Juliet pill popping one. I’m continually impressed with Natalie Weir’s work and I can’t wait to see more from this company. Let’s hope we see them back in Noosa next year.

 

Again, I’m going to say to Sunshine Coast artists and teachers, FIND A WAY TO SEE THE BEST IN YOUR FIELD! When the shows come to you there’s really no excuse. The Noosa Long Weekend Festival showcases artists who you can’t afford to miss if you’re truly serious about teaching and/or working on your craft, and the ticket prices are excellent value (it was just $55 for EDC’s 90-minute performance at The J Theatre).

 

Unfortunately, considering the number of dance lovers on the Coast, that’s it for dance at this year’s Festival! But there are still plenty of events happening over the final three days of the Festival, including the sensational Festival Highlights Celebration Concert on Sunday at the Outrigger from 12pm – 4pm.

 

Book online noosalongweekend.com

 

And what’s next for EDC? When Time Stops September 6th – 14th at QPAC’s Playhouse.

 

Book online expressionsdancecompany.org.au

 

11
May
13

A Tender Thing: Romeo and Juliet Remixed

A Tender Thing

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

Full Circle Theatre & Brisbane Powerhouse

9th – 18th May 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

A Tender Thing

Romeo and Juliet Remixed:

 

It’s the story of star cross’d lovers…but not as you know it.

 

 

Another Romeo and another Juliet in a strikingly different love story.

 

Re-imagining the text of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, British playwright Ben Power has remixed the greatest love story ever told to create an achingly beautiful new story of two older people.

 

Commissioned and premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009, and featured at the World Shakespeare Festival at Stratford in September last year, this 80 minute work for two actors is a provocative new tale of love and sacrifice.

 

Playing at the Visy Theatre at Brisbane Powerhouse until May 18 is a beautiful take on Romeo and Juliet, which was commissioned by the RSC for its premiere in 2009. Reimagined by Ben Power (literary manager, dramaturge and playwright), yet using Shakespeare’s words, we see for the first time in Australia, this intriguing, very gentle version, which presents the star-cross’d lovers at the end of their life together. In fact it could be any couple, at the end of their life together.

 

The themes are ageless, universal; if you see nothing of yourself in these characters or in their relationship, you’ll recognise your parents, or your grandparents, or somebody else you know well because they are quite beautifully drawn here by the actors, if not completely settled as individuals. Don’t worry, they will be by the time you see it. The best thing that can happen between now and the rest of the season is that each actor borrows a little from the other. I’ll explain in a minute but first, I’d better tell you this:

 

Full Circle Theatre allowed me to see the preview, which is not something I make a habit of. As you’ve read here before, it’s understood that a preview is part of the rehearsal process; a final chance to “get things right” before the season opens. So it’s unusual to review a preview but I knew I wouldn’t get the chance to see A Tender Thing otherwise. And as far as previews go, Thursday night’s was pretty slick.

 

 

Imagine if Romeo and Juliet had lived, and enjoyed a long, happy life together?

 

 

Director, Linda Davey, and actors, Flloyd Kennedy and Michael Croome, have taken the playwright’s notion of a “re-mix” and run with it, offering insight into the stuff of long-term relationships; the bit that happens after the honeymoon. It’s tough, isn’t it? I know. And I know you know. Preach. Choir. Not gonna’ do it. Sam and I have been married for ten years (and together for almost fourteen), and I know there have been times when he’s wished he’d had an obliging apothecary just up the road and around the corner. There have been TESTING TIMES. There have been times when neither of us remembers what brought us together. Or kept us together. Or will keep us together.

 

 

There are times when we talk about things that are NOT THEATRE RELATED AND NEITHER OF US KNOW WHO WE ARE.

 

 

A Tender Thing certainly makes you think.

 

Freddy Komp’s thoughtful design lets us into several private spaces within the one setting; a lived-in weatherboard beach cottage, such as we anticipate seeing in a traditional staging of David Williamson’s work. Clever use of recycled timber, sand, bark and living plants in the intimate Visy Theatre lets us get close to this couple in the comfort and familiarity of their home.

 

An evocative soundscape and score (Scott Norris) works with moody lighting (Daniel Anderson) to highlight the twilight years of the relationship. Many memories are stirred in me – sound and images will do that – they’re simple things, from early on in my own marriage, like putting on Robbie Williams’ DVD Swing When You’re Winning to act like a sage smudge in the house when the other half is feeling down. I’m not sure the shifting, melting images thrown across the back wall made me feel the same way (in fact, they turned my thoughts to recent discussions with artists about combining live theatre and MRI images, so I was thinking, “Yeah, that could work! Let’s do it!”). In the end, as things so often do, the images become clearer and serve as a vivid reminder of the beginning.

 

 

 

 

While Kennedy’s work on the preview night came across as slightly self-indulgent, Croome’s vocals needed attention. It seems, from some recent examples we’ve been seeing around and about, that the connections between the breath and the voice, and between the voice and the body are perhaps not getting the same attention as they once were. I’ve been thinking about this lately. Are we too focused on being multi-disciplined and self-serving now, ready to forge a career in The Arts Industry and yet still not ready to take on a role? I recently saw a mature age student in a new drama course on the Sunshine Coast absolutely kill Juliet’s Gallop apace piece. It was a lusty, fiery delivery that left no doubt in our minds about the meaning of the monologue, even without (as the treatment of the text in this context demanded) her interrupting a younger student’s performance and schooling her on Juliet’s intent. Wow! We get it! Bravo!

 

A Tender Thing

I expected this pair, with their training and their “two lifetimes worth of experience” to give us a complete master class on delivering Shakespeare. As I mentioned, both Kennedy and Croome will have settled into their roles and taken a little of the other’s expertise on board by the time you get to see this production. And you should see it, particularly if you’re a theatre practitioner, or somebody in a relationship. There are some perfect moments, including Kennedy’s, “I have forgot why I did call thee back”, Croome’s take on the arrival of morning (this scene is so perfectly reversed we wonder why the lines were ever given to Juliet), and his unfailing, endearing support of his beloved wife, particularly in their dance together, which is perhaps the most telling, moving moment of all. Again, I thought of The Notebook. And of Up.

 

We know this story so well (if you don’t, you’ll certainly enjoy the show, however, a deeper knowledge of Shakespeare’s original text will enhance the experience), and this is that familiar tale, only it’s dressed in a beautifully coloured, patterned and textured new coat. It’s a brilliant cut-and-paste job by Powers, a study of ageing and enduring love; layers and layers that will get you talking (or mulling over) your own relationships and those around you. Full Circle Theatre have indeed succeeded in producing dramatically significant work that allows us to explore and return to ideas and thus see the familiar from a new perspective.

 

 




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