Archive | December, 2015

Hamlet

4 Dec

Famous plays have baggage. They have a past. Which is, of course, what makes them interesting to a lot of people.

Having been produced so many times, each new production can end up feeling like a commentary on previous productions. (It’s one of the reasons I like new work. I don’t like to see that much theatre about theatre.)

When you produce Hamlet, a reasonable percentage of audience members will ask ‘Is this about Hamlet or Hamlet?’

Montague Basement’s adaption of Hamlet is a snappy, engaging 90-minute, five-character version. We lose (to name a few) Gertrude, Laertes, Fortinbras, Rosencrantz , Guildenstern and the players. Ophelia and Gertrude are melded and the result is curious. Horatio, Laertes, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are combined and the result is intriguing. And the structure is altered; there aren’t just cuts, there are also rearrangements. And the end………..

If you’re familiar with the text the changes are massive, and ultimately stimulating. Do they simply make the play easier to perform? Or is there a method……… I won’t say to the madness (because friends who weren’t familiar with the play very much enjoyed it. And I’ll add that a woman in the foyer said it was the funniest Hamlet she’d seen.)

Hamlet MB Program-7314

Performances are high quality. Patrick Morrow as Polonius is very funny. Christian Byers as Hamlet is antic, energetic and highly watchable. Lulu Howes as Ophelia is terrific (especially considering the challenging decision to have her witness her father’s death, and then alone on stage descend into madness and commit suicide in a handful of minutes.)

Director Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s set, with its TV screens and strewn paper, suggests both a teenager’s bedroom and the weight of the thousands of previous productions.

I did miss Laertes and Fortinbras, who are such foils to Hamlet. (The latter especially lifts the play into the political realm; “madness in great ones must not unwatched go”). I did miss Gertrude (especially her response to the lost Ophelia; “I will not speak with her.”) And, most of all, I missed……… but, of course, talking this way only highlights the power of text, and the beguiling allure of the past.

Veronica Kaye

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (sort of)

PACT til Sat 5 Dec

tix and info here

 

 

Dinkum Assorted

1 Dec

Another play dominated entirely by female actors. It’s disgusting. All those millennia of oppression – for nothing!

Set in a country biscuit factory during WW2, the fifteen strong all-female cast provides a fun and thought-provoking night out.

Dinkum Assorted is part of that genre that treats war as though it were a natural disaster. And if you’re far enough down the pecking order, I guess it is. These women have to make the best of a difficult situation. And they do, with both fight and laughter.

There are some terrific performances: Colleen Cook as the down-to-earth forewoman; Debra Bryan as the maligned and misunderstood outsider; Bodelle de Ronde as the struggling young mother; Sonya Kerr as the sophisticate facing tough choices; and Amanda Laing and Hannah Raven as the effervescent youngsters dreaming of another world.

Dinkum-10

Photo by Bob Seary

It’s sort of a musical with all the songs at one end. The closing numbers have huge energy and Laing and Raven’s tap dance is brilliant. The costuming of these numbers, by Kiara Mullooly, is delightfully and gloriously over the top.

Some people might find the book a little dissatisfying; there’s so much in it that some parts can feel a little sparse, but Aronson and director Sahn Millington get the tone right. This is a story of Big History catching up with little people. Sure it’s a tribute to determination, but the play’s also a paean to innocence.

Kerr’s Joan says ‘Don’t make me something I’m not’. De Ronde’s Millie replies ‘It’s what people always do.’

Perhaps in the past we were innocent. It’s a myth we tell. It’s what we always do. I wonder why.

Veronica Kaye

Dinkum Assorted  Book, lyrics & music by Linda Aronson

at New Theatre til 19 Dec

tix and info here

Through a Beaded Lash

1 Dec

Four funerals and a wedding.

Well, not exactly. There are no funerals (on stage). There is a wedding (slightly off stage).

But, despite the humour, the atmosphere is thick with loss.

Robert Allan’s deeply moving play is about the struggle between the acknowledgement of grief and the quest for growth.

With two concurrent time periods, the play is a cleverly structured dialogue between the past and the present.

In the past, we follow the developing relationship between Brent and Adam. Brent (Ryan Henry) performs as a drag queen. With the help of effervescent Zoe (Emily McGowan) and crotchety but lovable Phil (Roger Smith), Brent raises money for those battling the newly recognized Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. A charming bumbler, Adam (Oliver Rynn), arrives. The attraction is obvious, but he’s out of his depth. There’s a war going on, and Adam – like so many of the population – has not caught up with the reality.

photo Clare Hawley

Photo by Clare Hawley

In the present, we follow Adam and Zoe twenty odd years on. Played engagingly by Cherilyn Price and Leo Domigan, their friendship has survived, but beyond the fun banter, there’s real tension.

Clever direction by Julie Baz highlights both the continuities and discontinuities between the two time periods and so brings to the fore the fundamental question of the piece: What is, What should be, What can be, our relationship with the past?

Both funny and touching, Through a Beaded Lash is a powerful call both to remember the dead and to remember to live.

And it’s a new play and I congratulate The Depot on that.

I began with a glib reference. Four funerals……..

In the 80’s, 90’s and today, here and worldwide, if only the toll was so low.

It’s more like forty million.

 

Veronica Kaye

Through a Beaded Lash By Robert Allan

The Depot Theatre til 12 Dec

Tix and info here