Summer Shakespeare 2018: The Comedy of Errors

February 17, 2018 at 11:37 pm | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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This year Summer Shakespeare put on The Comedy of Errors – in a car park. Like last year, this is a departure from holding it in the dell in the botanical gardens. The stage was made from industrial scaffolding – yet it was not a post-apocalyptic staging.

The Comedy of Errors is, as it name suggests it is, a comedy: centred around the chaos caused by two sets of identical twins, each set having the same names – Antipholus and his servant Dromio. They are separated at birth and raised in separate cities – Syracuse and Ephesus. One day, the Ephesus set of twins arrive in Syracuse, and confusion and mayhem ensues. Of which there is much, because Antipholus of Syracuse is married! By the time it is all resolved, people’s sanity will be questioned, new loves found, and old loves reunited.

Antipholus is played by James Cain and Michael Hockey; Dromio is played by Kasey Benge and Samuel Irwin. Adriana wife of Antipholus, of Syracuse, is played by Stevie Hancox – who has a pleasant singing voice. The play has elements of singing and Adriana has a solo. There is also a musical dance number at the end of the play – which I am told is a traditional way to end an Elizabethan play.

Worth going to: ‘original’ outdoor setting; some slapstick comedy; some great lines (it is Shakespeare after all); good performances; excellent singing; and to support an excellent local production.

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Timon of Athens – Summer Shakespeare 2015

February 15, 2015 at 8:19 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to this play the other night – put on by the (Wellington) Summer Shakespeare Trust.

Timon, played by Hayden Frost of The Almighty Johnsons fame, is a wealthy citizen of Athens who is generous to his friends and philanthropic to the needy. His friends turnout to be greedy and corrupt. Despite the efforts of Flavia, his steward, played by Emma-Yvonne Simons, his generousness and good works consumes his wealth and eventually he is penniless.

There is a series of scenes towards the end of Act I, where Timon’s friends show their true colours. To repay them, Timon stages one last feast, and serves up water and bones!

Act I ends with general Alcibiades declaring his disgust at the Athenian Senate for not showing clemency to a decorated Athenian soldier, and former subordinate of Alcibiades. I am sure that the scene is suppose to reinforce the disloyal nature of the senators (who are also Timon’s ‘friends’); but for me this does not work. Historically, the citizen soldiers of Athens fought to defend their city as a physical location and as a philosophical ideal. There can be no clemency; for that would mean no rule-of-law. But nevertheless the scene is set for disaffection to be harvested later.

Act II opens with Timon practically naked living in the open under a blanket. We see him railing against the city and it wealthy inhabitants. He finds buried treasure and is chanced upon by Alcibiades, leading his soldiers, towards Athens. Instead of trying to dissuade his friend from his course of action, he gives gold to the army, to encourage them to greater deeds. Similarly, Timon supports a trio of thieves, whom he sets upon Athens. The only Athenian Timon truly rewards is Flavia; Flavia restores Timon’s faith in Man, by giving Timon the last of his money, without knowing the Gods have played one last joke on Tiomon (through the buried treasure). But, according to Wikipedia, it is not enough, for Timon to stop undermining Athens (whom he previously loved so much). Timon cannot change his mind, because he dies (of presumably a broken heart) and is therefore unavailable to be persuaded by his former friends to save them from Alcibiades.

This is one of the Bard’s lesser known works; and has not been performed in New Zealand for a century and a half. I welcomed the Trust’s choice, but I wish the production gave more ‘handrails’ to an audience unfamiliar with the dialogue.

Still worth a go.

‘My’ performance was held indoors. I, along with a number of other people, got caught out with the venue change. So check the facebook page and the web site (warning it is not mobile friendly). There is no signage at the Dell. If you arrive and find it deserted and the loudspeakers still wrapped in black plastic, then head to Wellington High School 🙂

Twelfth Night IN re.SPACE

February 12, 2015 at 8:12 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Bright Orange Walls’ production of Shakespeare’ Twelfth Night in re.Space (on Victoria Street). It was very much theatre in-the-round, as there were two sets of almost parallel seats in between which the action took place. The venue looked a bit like an art gallery – and it certainly functioned as one in parts. Some of the cat did double and triple duty getting the minor characters into the action.

Major Characters:

  • Duke Orsino – Jonathan Price;
  • Viola – Ella Hope-Higginson;
  • Sebastian – Patrick Carroll
  • Countess Olivia – Brynley Stent;
  • Maria (Olivia’ maid) – Johanna Cosgrove.

Since the play is staged in an art gallery, the Duke is often working on a painting. There is a Dorian Grey quality to it all: the canvas is blank at the beginning and gets painted over as the play progresses; at times the canvas paints itself. There is a performance art within performance art quality to it, as each night a new painting emerges.

Staying with the art gallery scene much of the fights are paint fights.

Worth a go; and worth seeing the most static art on display in the rest of re.Space.

The Tragedy of King Richard III

January 26, 2015 at 8:32 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to opening night of the Bacchanals‘ production of Shakespeare’s Richard III at Bat’s Theatre.

Very accessible well put together, well acted production. It had a helpful introduction: introducing all of the protagonists. Another nice innovation was to use the family tree to keep track of the body count – as Richard removed them one-by-one. The production was very much like in Shakespeare’s time, in that the cast played many characters – even actors who played major characters, donned a jerkin and became spear carriers from time to time. After a little while, you did not notice the older dialect of English.

Richard III was played by David Lawrence; and Elizabeth Wydville was played by Kirsty Bruce.

Definitely, worth going to; and you get to see the revamped, earthquake strengthened building – the play was pretty much ‘in the round’ in the new Dome room.

The Beard of Avon

December 3, 2009 at 12:01 am | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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Plot elements revealed!

December 1, 2009 by Show_Hanger

I went to Amy Freed’s The Beard of Avon, the other night, at Gryphon Theatre.

This comedy explores who wrote the works of Shakespeare.

Will Shakspere – played by Tom Rainbird – unhappy with his domestic circumstances in rural Avon, is tempted by the bright lights of the city and of the stage, runs away from his wife and farm! It turns out that he has no real talent to be an actor (can’t: dance, tumble, act, nor orate), but nevertheless becomes a spear shaker – a spear carrier – in a company in London. There his ability to polish and have a neat feeling turn of phrase is discovered and his future is assured – as is Willliam Shakespeare‘s place in history.

It is asserted that Shakspere/Shakespeare polished and finished off the plays (and poems), but who provided the drafts? The play drags forth a number of candidates. It does explain how Shakespeare had such an intermit knowledge of politics and of the nobility.

The play is engaging and mildly funny. The more you are familiar with plays of Shakespeare, the more your will be engaged; I am sure I missed a few references.

Chris O’Grady is superb as Edward de Vere (the Early of Oxford). Gillian Boyes makes a wonderful Queen Elizabeth I – though I am not sure that her handbag was historically accurate! Felicity Cozens took the various sides of Anne Hathaway (grumbling wife, sorry wife, unhappy wife, harlot!) in her stride. Susannah Donovan is great as Geoffrey Dunderbread – a man playing a women.

Worth going – if you have time bone up on your Shakespeare before you go!

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