News, Reviews, Theatre

No rain on the Dream’s parade

Pop-up Globe, A Midsummer Night’s Dream ·
Crown Perth, 11 November ·
Review by Jan Hallam ·

Another night, another play… thoughtful tragedy, one night; uproarious comedy the next; clear, starry skies for Hamlet, relentless rain on the Dream. The Pop-up Globe has got the lot and the common denominator is that, come rain, hail, or moonglow, the show goes.

The enthusiasm of the crowd was far from dampened by the persistent showers on the opening night of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the folk in the pit, with supplied ponchos, were ready to party. It added enormously to the atmosphere to what is already a very atmospheric venue.

Pop-up has two companies performing in repertory. The Exeter’s Company is performing the Dream and Twelfth Night, while the Nottingham’s Company takes on Hamlet and Measure for Measure. The concept, while offering more work for more actors (always a good thing), is attractive from an audience perspective too –  there is always something new and intriguing to discover.

Anatonio Te Maioha as Oberon, embracing Renaye Tamati (Titania).

So it is with Exeter’s Dream. After the youthful brooding of the previous night’s Hamlet, director Miles Gregory’s full-on assault of the Dream’s gender wars was a sight to behold.

It’s interesting that he doesn’t dwell long in the marble halls of Athens, first of the play’s two settings, and quickly heads for the hills and anarchy of the world of the “fairies” led by Titania and Oberon. Certainly, the laughs are all there but the comparison between the two settings is important.

Theseus’s Athens is power and order – for him. The forest is a creature of a different shape altogether. Here Titania calls the shots… mostly.

So hugely significant, then, is Gregory’s opening scene of Theseus dragging in his captured bride, Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, through the crowd, bound and gagged. If we weren’t going to spend much time in this place, it was a great conveyor of how business was conducted there.

Not surprisingly that what follows is a father declaring he would rather his daughter dead than to marry a man he hadn’t chosen for her. Thus, the antecedence of the absolutely hilarious, loveable quartet of lovers, Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, is born from this darkness.

All four players nailed this. Rebecca Rogers’ Hermia was a brittle diamond, Ruby Hansen’s Helena was shimmering, gibbering neurosis, Harry Bradley’s Lysander was a fabulous Eton mess of a thing and Simon Rodda’s Demetrius was, well, quite slimy. They took these attitudes through the cobbled streets of Athens, through the murky swamps and thorns of the relationship forest and out the other side, still keeping their essential selves. Loved it!

The Mechanicals are Shakespeare’s gift to the world. Led by Peter Hambleton’s Bottom, almost literally, they are the joy that gives air to this crazy, crazy play.

The Mechanicals are the joy that gives air to this crazy, crazy play. Held aloft is Sheena Irving as  Starveling.

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this production was the magic created by the language of Titania’s and Oberon’s forest. Here the otherworldliness comes in the lyrical sounds of te reo Maori spoken by Anatonio Te Maioha’s Oberon, Renaye (Ngati Kahungunu/Te Atiawa/Kai Tahu) Tamati’s Titania and Eds (Ngapuhi) Eramiha’s Puck.

And not just the odd outbreak – almost the entire engagement is exquisitely rendered, led entirely by some great acting of voice and body. Not a drop was spilt – well maybe we were missing a foundling or two, but if anything is incidental in the fiery relationship of Oberon and Titania, it is probably the kid.

Here the enslaved Hippolyta transforms into Titania’s wild dervish, and the masculine certainty of Theseus is completely undone in Oberon, who learns that every action has an effect that cannot be controlled.

And Puck! A success of a performance of the Dream, I reckon, rests largely on the chemistry of the Quartet and the interpretation of Puck. I have seen some nasty Pucks in my day. Eramiha’s good hearted, bit of a bumbler, bit of a chancer but helluva dancer Puck set the tone of this good natured and thoroughly entertaining show.

Nothing rained on its parade.

So, Pop-up, two out of two. Two to go!

Pop-up Globe’s Perth season (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night) runs until October 27.

Pictured top is Anatonio Te Maioha as Oberon.

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News, Reviews, Theatre

Hamlet a crowd-pleaser, if not a nerve-tingler

Review: Pop-up Globe, Hamlet ⋅
Crown Perth, October 10 ⋅
Review by Jan Hallam⋅

This play at the Pop-up Globe was always going to be tricky for me. I am a veteran of deeply psychological performances of this mighty, complex work.

Like its director David Lawrence, who so eloquently expressed in his program notes, I too had lost a father at 14 at the time Hamlet was slapped down on my school desk.

For Lawrence, the assistant artistic director of the Pop-up Globe – a concept so bravely and successfully executed by its founder, New Zealand-based Dr Miles Gregory – Hamlet came into his life when he was at his “absolute craziest and totally incapable of processing my grief”. It spoke to him when no one else around him could understand what he was experiencing.

Being an adolescent female in the 1970s, for me it was hopeless love and an urge to rescue – Hamlet and me! It also raised discourses about Ophelia. Why wasn’t she more defiant, like Juliet? But, hey, things didn’t turn out so well for Juliet, either.

So Pop-up Globe isn’t that. It’s a bear pit of a place. Full of people moving around, making their own random entrances and exits, clinking drinks, taking selfies and pics of the play (no flash, no sound, please share on social media #popupglobe). It’s an event, an occasion and a pretty rare one at that. It’s not every day you get to see Shakespeare in a pretty impressive replica of London’s second Globe Theatre.

Perth approximated the atmosphere with the annual Shakespeare in the Park but its signature chillaxed vibe didn’t quite crank up the same feeling of being locked in a cauldron – for better or worse.

I’m not a great one for official programs, but a lot of love and detail has gone into this one. Discovering Gregory’s passion and endeavour, then his ability to share the vision to draw in exterior and interior architects; costume design (lavishly conceived by Hannah Lobelson) and dramaturgs – it is something of a wonder.

But, of course, this isn’t a circus – it’s a theatre and ultimately the play’s the thing to catch the collective conscience of the audience.

Four plays are being performed in repertory (Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure). A bold move to program the heaviest hitting of all of Shakespeare’s tragedies in a venue so perfectly conducive to his bawdy comedies.

It was muscular, accessible revenge theatre, with a bit of swashbuckle and fisticuffs and lots of boy humour and blood. Pictured: Adrian Hooke (standing) and Max Loban in Pop-Up Globe’s ‘Hamlet’.

Performances were strong on opening night. Adrian Hooke brought a fascinating millennial feel to Hamlet. He wore his angst like a good fitting pair of raw denim; obvious only on occasion when required but always present. None of the yelling, pacing, spikes of violent emotion we’re so used to witnessing. More a “a WTF has happened to my life” rendering. It was refreshing.

I was particularly moved by the famous “get thee to a nunnery” scene between Hamlet and Ophelia (a role so sensitively portrayed by Summer Millett). Perhaps it was because it took place in my little corner of the round and I could see the whites of the actors’ eyes. Or maybe because this was an interpretation that spoke more of the rank web of corruption the young couple have found themselves caught up in. It was less of a whore injunction and more of a protective gesture, a “get the hell out of here while you have the chance” plea.

Again, interesting, thoughtful.

Also, special mention of Max Loban’s Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. Loban was powerful as the well-shod, smiling assassin who kills his brother in order to grab the crown and his brother’s wife. As things start to unravel for him, he is a thing to watch – the darting eyes, the off-balance moments. Great acting.

And, of course, there’s the comedy, the carnivalesque japing with the audience and each other. And, equally, the crowd lapped it up. It was muscular, accessible revenge theatre, with a bit of swashbuckle and fisticuffs and lots of boy humour and blood.

My muted disappointment about the show has more to do with the lack of nerve-tingling drama and my own need to feel more potently disgusted by this gross political swamp that swallows up everyone and everything. This was then and this is also now. It’s a play to stir action.

Alas, our time is out of joint. Oh, cursed spite we have no one to set it right.

Hamlet runs until October 20.

Pictured: Adrian Hooke brings a fascinating millennial feel to Hamlet.

 

 

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Much Ado About Nothing Rehearsal. Zindzi Okenyo, Vivienne Awosoga, Suzanne Pereira. Photo: Prudence Upton.
News, Performing arts, Theatre

WIN a double pass to Bell Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

We have two double passes to give away to see Bell Shakespeare’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, on August 8, at the State Theatre Centre of WA.

Directed by Bell Shakespeare’s Associate Director, James Evans (Julius Caesar) and starring Zindzi Okenyo (Antony and Cleopatra, MTC’s An Ideal Husband) as Beatrice, this Much Ado About Nothing will be a powerful exploration of the struggle for identity and self-knowledge in a male-dominated world. The pursuit of love is framed in a social context that enhances the darker themes in this timeless comic gem.

“Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.” Act 5, Scene 2

Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s contemporary comedies where romance is thwarted by dastardly plots, misinformation, false accusations, broken promises, and bumbling cops. Or is it?

To be in the running to win one of two double passes to see Much Ado About Nothing, 7.30pm, August 8, at the State Theatre Centre of WA, simply email hello@seesawmag.com.au with “Much Ado giveaway” in the subject line and your name and phone number in the body of the email.

Limit of one entry per person.

Deadline for entries: C.O.B Monday 29 July. Winners will be notified by email Tuesday 30 July.

Much Ado About Nothing plays the State Theatre Centre of WA, August 7-10.

Pictured top: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ rehearsal. Zindzi Okenyo, Vivienne Awosoga, Suzanne Pereira. Photo: Prudence Upton.

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Two ladies dressed in costume for a play
Calendar, March 19, Performing arts, Theatre

Theatre: The Merchant of Venice

7 – 16 March @ New Fortune Theatre, University of WA ·
Presented by Graduate Dramatic Society ·

A contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is sure to resonate with modern audiences, in the light of today’s far-right extremist groups and recent anti-Semitic attacks. Presented by the Graduate Dramatic Society at UWA’s New Fortune Theatre, this version is set in 1938 and directed by Lucy Eyre.

The story follows Portia, heiress to a large fortune and forced into marriage by an unorthodox method, stipulated by her late father. This attracts suitors from all over the world, which sets in motion a fateful transaction. Merchant Antonio must default on a large loan from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender  he abused and, in turn, the vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment. The demand tests the laws of Venice at a time when the rise of fascism in Europe threatens to quash the Venetians’ bohemian lifestyle, while strengthening anti-Semitic attitudes.

“If I’m going to direct a play, I have to be passionate about its themes,” Eyre, who has a PhD in performing  in relation to understanding why people are racist or why they discriminate against others. The Merchant of Venice is known for the Jewish character Shylock and the play mentions the history of anti-Semitic insults and abuse he’s experienced in Venice. Various incidents occur during the play that accumulate and compel Shylock to seek revenge. Shakespeare has written some wonderful plays that deal with important, timeless issues – I directed Othello for the Hills Shakespeare Festival in 2014 for similar reasons, although the plays are very different.”

First performing in the UK, Eyre has been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and, after moving to WA, made her debut with Playlovers in The Pirates of Penzance in 1993 and went on to appear in numerous productions at KADS Theatre.

In recent years, she has performed at the Dolphin and Marloo Theatres, Kidogo Arthouse and Koorliny Arts Centre  in All My Sons, Gypsy, Never Give All of the Heart and Stepping Out. As a director, Eyre has several credits  including shows at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Blue Room and Regal Theatres. In 2004, she wrote her first full-length play Conundrum, then Three On, One Off which was nominated for best new play at  the 2010 Equity Awards. Eyre was also co-writer and co-performer in the cabaret Chicks and Flicks for a Downstairs at the Maj season.

“Each play has its own challenges, including the logistics of getting up to 20 people in the same room,” she said. “My main aim with The Merchant of Venice is to create a production that will resonate with audiences in 2019,  even though it’s set in 1938. With the rise of far-right extremist groups and recent anti-Semitic attacks in Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world, The Merchant of Venice is still relevant andimportant.”

The Merchant of Venice plays at 7.30pm March 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15 and 16. Tickets are $35, $25 concession.  Book at  www.ticketswa.com/event/merchant-venice or call 6488 2440 between 12pm and 4pm weekdays.

Please note: the play contains adult themes and anti-Semitic language and is recommended for ages 12 and up.

The New Fortune Theatre is located at the University of WA, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley.

More info:
www.ticketswa.com/event/merchant-venice

Pictured: Melissa Merchant, left, as Nerissa is a loyal friend to Portia (Grace Edwards).
Photo credit: Myles Wright, costumes: Merri Ford

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Romeo and Juliet
Calendar, October 18, Performing arts, September 18, Theatre

Theatre: Romeo and Juliet

27 Sep – 13 Oct @ Limelight Theatre ·
Presented by Limelight Theatre ·

TWO star-crossed lovers come together despite constant opposition from their warring families in Limelight Theatre’s latest production, described as “the greatest love story ever told”.

Directed by Peter Clark, Romeo and Juliet was first performed 424 years ago and is one of the most popular Shakespeare plays performed today – but it’s the first time Shakespeare has been performed at Limelight Theatre in its 45-year history.

Street brawls, a masquerade, hope and the best laid schemes of the well-intentioned lead to an inevitable and tragic conclusion in the immortal love story. Clark said he had gone for a contemporary take on the Shakespeare classic.

“This is to ensure the production is easily accessible for the audience – for both first-time Shakespeareans and the experienced – so they have the ability to relate and feel for the characters as the story unfolds,” he said  “Our production designer has designed and produced a wonderful set and staging for the show. The overall look and feel of the production is also assisted with very specific lighting effects, music, film and costume. I was trained to believe that Shakespeare was written for all and should never be perceived as boring or dated – my approach to this production provides all the necessary ingredients to ensure it is not.  It’s a two-hour production that packs a punch without losing the core integrity of the script and central themes around love.”

Romeo and Juliet plays at 8pm September 27, 28, 29, October 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12 and 13 with a 2pm matinee October 7. Tickets are $21, $18 concession – book at www.limelighttheatre.com.au or on 0499 954 016 between 9am and midday, Monday to Friday.
Limelight Theatre is located on Civic Drive, Wanneroo.

More info:
www.limelighttheatre.com.au

Pictured:
Callum O’Mara and Lauren Thomas play the title roles in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Peter Clark

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