‘To really get to know a person you have got to get inside a person’s skin and walk around a while.’ Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.
This famous quote holds as true as ever. We need to step outside of ourselves and into the ‘shoes’ of another human being to truly understand and accept them.
This is what British playwright Diane Samuels does with her play which explores what it was like to be a Kindertransport survivor. These were the Jewish children who the British Government rescued from the clutches of Nazism. Between the end of 1938 and the end of 1939 the British Government issued 10,000 permits to get children out, minus their parents, and provide them with safe passage to England, where they were taken in by foster parents who were ‘charged with’ trying to bring order and stability back into their lives.
The play follows the journey of Eva from the time she leaves Germany for England to her own middle-age as a long established British resident with an inquisitive grown-up daughter who is demanding to know more about her long ago past., Samuels’ play also includes a non-naturalistic, symbolic level with the use of extracts from an an eerie children’s story, ‘The Rat Catcher’.
This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the first production of this landmark Australian play. While Sport For Jove’s production, as co- directed by Damien Ryan and Samantha Young, has some terrific segments, it a little uneven, mainly in the first half, where the acting, at times, seemed a little forced.
The staging was excellent – Lucilla Smith’s set design was very impressive – lyrical and simple, featuring a stage partially raked and there was a very effective use of light drapes which were sometimes tied back.
Sport for Jove’s wonderful version of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is a delicious version of this quite challenging play that had the audience in stitches at times. It has been adapted and transposed by director Damien Ryan to Italy in the 1920’s in the silent film industry with sly digs at the Australian film industry of the time. It is full of exuberant energy and performed with enormous zest.
Damien Ryan’s direction leads to a thought provoking production which questions how the play can be read from a feminist perspective and is delicately aware and nuanced in its approaches to gender politics but doesn’t really provide answers as such , leaving the audience undecided .
Anna Gardiner’s set is rather sparse but with multiple small props and a ladder that is rolled in, out or reversed allowing for many fluid scene changes and retaining the feel of a film production lot .With Sian James-Holland’s evocative lighting, and the use of projected, early cinema style film, the production is a visual feast.
The casting is superb with fine ensemble performances and wonderful work from the leads.
Seemingly the complete opposite to Katharine, Lizzie Schebesta shines as beautiful starlet Bianca who eventually reveals her hidden claws. On the surface, softer and far more the gracious , ideal woman she is as powerful as her sister. Schebesta impresses with her comic timing and graceful agility.
Danielle King as Katherina is brilliantly spitfire and spiky, at times almost feral, and , especially at first, rude and uncouth and delighting to annoy. She breaks convention and seeks to speak her mind and be independent in order to preserve her personal integrity but the dominant patriarchal society insists she does otherwise.
Angela Bauer is enchanting as the alluring Vincentia, prima donna movie star .
Baptista Minola here bossily, solidly played by Robert Alexander is a movie director with two eligible daughters: movie starlet Bianca (Lizzie Schebesta) and the fiery, explosive aviatrix Katharina (Danielle King). Baptista seems more concerned about his daughter’s financial security than their general well being.
The queue for Bianca’s hand includes matinee idols Gremio (Barry French) and Hortensio (Terry Karabelas) and, by proxy, a student, Lucentio (Christopher Stalley), who has his sister Tania (Eloise Winestock) impersonate him while he is in disguise as Bianca’s German governess.
Dashing Terry Karabelas as the vainglorious Hortensio is in fine form and revels in channeling his inner Errol Flynn.
Tall, blonde Christopher Stalley and Eloise Winestock have enormous fun as the scheming cross dressing siblings, Lucentio , (desperately in love with Bianca ) and Tania . Lucentio when in disguise as Bianca’s German governess Fraulein Gretchen is in the awkward situation of being the only character on stage who isn’t able to speak German!
James Lugton plays Petruchio, a dashing naval officer who seeks to ensure his financial future by marrying Katherina. His cruel taming methods almost amount to torture but he is a generally reasonable man who has to use unreasonable methods to get what he wants. The horrendous honeymoon is played aboard Petruchio’s ship, which suffers much rolling!, and then on land.
I enjoyed the neat visual twist that Katharina wears elegant black at her wedding, and it is Petruchio who has the spectacular entrance with a train. In a nice touch Petruchio enters shirtless, trailing a parachute.
The highly controversial speech by Katharina that ends the play, and that theoretically shows her vanquished spirit, is here presented with a troubled, questioning tone and laughs are orchestrated with the concluding projected film.
Petruchio’s servants here become his crew and sing a wonderful sea shanty and there is much fun with the rolling of the ship . Michael Cullen as Grumio , Petruchio’s valet and George Kemp as Biondello, in particular, show off their great comic timing and slapstick skills.
This Sport For Jove production is full of exuberant, boisterous energy with plenty of slapstick and silent film melodrama thrown into the mix.
The jokes hurtle along and Ryan and the cast do a magnificent job of maintaining the blistering pace in this bold production.
Running time allow 3 hours 15 minutes including one interval.
Sport for Jove’s production of TAMING OF THE SHREW is playing the York Theatre, the Seymour Centre until May 28.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is playing as part of the season of Sydney Hills Shakespeare in the Park and Leura Shakespeare Festival and a festival it most definitely is. Families and lovers and friends and cronies, all together under a moonless sky to enjoy the group experience of enjoying a favourite 400 year old play.
A military Athens is initially in store for audiences as the guards in their grey shirts and pants usher people in and then stand on guard before the show starts.
Opening on the open raised stage near the small period home on Bella Vista Farm, we meet Theseus (Christopher Tomkinson) and Hippolyta (Francesca Savige). Never tick off an Amazon … she is cross and not shy about expressing it. Conquering Theseus has a very unwilling bride on his hands. Continue reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ Bella Vista Farm→
Another excellent Sport for Jove production , performed in rep with ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, this TWELFTH NIGHT has the atmosphere of a typical 1960’s Aussie summer right on Christmas time …. there is the feel of a joyous beach party ( think the recent wonderful production of Opera Australia’s ‘The Turk In Italy’) and water/maritime themes and analogies running through the show.
There is also an ominous side, though, with shipwrecks and the presence of border guards/police demanding passports for example. Another theme is mirrors (a fun sight gag is when Sebastian and Viola as Cesario both put on a white hat as if either side of a mirror and don’t see each other. It is uncanny how alike they look) And a special mention as well for the design elements all of which are well executed
Music also is a crucial part of the production with hits from the Beach Boys , Four Seasons and Roy Orbison amongst others incorporated into the performance. The play itself, was originally conceived as a Twelfth Night Christmas period jaunty entertainment and included several musical interludes which the director Damien Ryan has incorporated with relish.
The complicated plot is somewhat as follows : a tremendous storm and shipwreck sees twins Sebastian and Viola separated with each thinking the other is dead. Viola decides to dress as a man, Cesario , and quickly becomes accepted as part of the Duke of Illyria , Orsino’s , entourage. Orsino is desperately in love with the snappish, elegant Countess Olivia who doesn’t return his love.. Instead , she falls in love with Viola as Cesario , when ‘he’ is sent as unwilling messenger , and meanwhile Viola is in love with Orsino…But eventually hidden secrets are revealed and all put to rights.Sebastian, having met Olivia and she mistaking him for Cesario, sleeps and marries him, is eventually reunited with his sister Viola who is revealed to be a woman and the attraction between her and Orsino is disclosed .
Ryan is blessed with an exceptional Malvolio and Viola/Cesario in particular but the whole ensemble is terrific.
As Viola/Cesario Abigail Austin is sensational. She is elfin and petite , quite a believable debonair young boy/man. No wonder the Lady Olivia is fascinated and the Duke likes him! A mysterious androgyny clings to both Viola and Cesario. Ryan possibly wanted to heighten the hidden ambiguity, which was so powerful in Shakespeare’s day, when all the players necessarily were men. – meaning a man would be playing a woman, impersonating a man. Confused? Having created her new identity as Cesario , (s)he is lively and spirited yet hides a great loss and a maddening, not to be revealed love. ( Until all is magically made right at the end ,at least for her… ).
Robin Goldsworthy, our Malvolio, is splendid. He is played as a pompous , fussy , obsessive military character ( parking tickets on the ice cream van for example) yet underneath he has a huge hidden heart and he is presented very sympathetically. Goldsworthy has fantastic comic timing . His mean treatment by, and the ghastly‘prank played by Sir Toby , Maria and the others, I did not find funny but rather horribly cruel. Others in the audience however found it hilarious. Goldsworthy gives Malvolio a range of elements that delights and overtake us. We are enchanted and mesmerised . His energy ,conviction and range are magnificent .
Anthony Gooley plays the cigar smoking , melancholy Duke Orsino with flamboyance and a touch of arrogance .He can ‘play’ quite dangerous if necessary .
Tall Tyran Parke is terrific as the wise clown Feste, blessed with a sparking wit and a great voice. His finale ‘The Wind and the Rain’ is extremely moving. A jocular gag was Feste’s teasing of Cesario when, suspecting he is a she, begins to sing The Four Seasons song, ‘Walk like a man, talk like a man’ .
While yes she is in mourning for her brother, Lady Olivia ( Megan Drury) is shown as a modern woman being aware of her present and future options . Drury finds a delicate balance between glamour and absurdity with an assertive confidence in her presence that effectively prevents Olivia’s femininity from ever being seen as weak.
James Lugton as the rather dim , sozzled Sir Toby Belch and his partner in crime Sir Andrew Aguecheek, played by Mike Pigott should also be mentioned .Their foolish antics cause much laughter .
Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT is a story of love and confused identity set against the backdrop of the 1960’s. With its beautifully detailed ensemble work, the production is very funny as well as being, at times, deeply moving . A delight.
If music be the food of love play on …
With a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one interval, TWELFTH NIGHT plays in rep with ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL at the Seymour Centre until Saturday Apr 12.
Celebrating its 5th anniversary and Shakespeare’s 450th, this year Sport For Jove brings us a most fabulous production of this lesser known, rarely performed complex and difficult ‘problem play’ by Shakespeare .
The play has a quite improbable, rather dark, implausible plot ( one can imagine it straight out of a TV soap – a desperately ill king healed , unrequited love leading to a forced marriage , a very intelligent woman foolishly chasing – going to extremes even – a man who has nothing but disdain and humiliation for her, a ‘bed trick’ ( recorded on a mobile )and eventually a reconciliation all in times of war. It is both a tragedy and a comedy Under the gripping direction of Damien Ryan and with its very strong, superb cast the audience can focus on the situations drama and story especially of Helena and Bertram and their emotional development. It has been updated with the use of mobile phones etc .Shakespeare’s language is clearly delivered and feels fresh and new.