“Some love too little, some too long/Some sell, and others buy/Some do the deed with many tears/And some without a sigh/ For each man kills the thing he loves/Yet each man does not die.” – Oscar Wilde: The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
Sensitively directed by Iain Sinclair this production by Red Line Productions of David Hare’s play THE JUDAS KISS would have to be one of the best shows on in town at the moment.
This compelling production is part of the Mardi Gras Festival and looks at the tragic fall of the great author Oscar Wilde.
The play was written in 1998 and Neil Armfield directed a landmark version at Belvoir in 1999 and more recently an overseas production starring Rupert Everett as Wilde.
Hare is regarded as one of the great contemporary British playwrights writers and it is a huge pleasure to hear his magnificent use of language and observe the confident, secure construction of his play.
In the tiny intimate theatre it is as if we are a fly on the wall observing events. Act 1 is set on the 5th of April, 1895, in a room of the Cadogan Hotel in London, the night on which Wilde must decide whether to stay in England, and face imprisonment, or flee.
The Cadogan Hotel, set is plush red velvet curtains, lamps, chairs and tables and crowded with paintings (pick out the Whistlers and St. Sebastian).
After interval, Act 2 is set two years later, on the 3rd December, 1897, after Wilde’s release from prison, in the Villa Guidice at Posillipo, near Naples. This set is minimalist featuring a white backdrop , a chair and a white slab on which Galileo reclines as we enter.
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.
With his new play UNHOLY GHOSTS Campion Decent has made a a brave call. He has gone the way of some of the great dramatists by putting his dysfunctional family of origin, up there, on centre stage, for all to see.
Eugene O’Neill could not bear to see his nightmarish autobiographical work, LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, performed whilst he was alive. His masterwork first saw the light of day when it was first published three years after his death. Actually O’Neill wanted the public to wait 25 years after his demise however his wife, realising the enormity of this work, arranged for its earlier release date.
The playwright was there on opening night to see his work premiere. What an experience for him to go through- so raw on one hand, on the other cathartic, to see James Lugton play himself so well, and his Unholy Ghosts, his late parents, brought so vividly to life, by two of our finest actors, Robert Alexander and Anna Volska
They had made life very difficult for him. His right wing, antagonistic father never accepted his son’s homosexuality. His actress mother was a self obsessed, hard living lush.
Then there was his younger sister who died tragically young in suspicious circumstances. We never get to meet her on stage but she is another ghost that haunts this play, and Decent’s life.
At the end of the performance the cast were greeted with very enthusiastic applause. Decent joined the cast on stage for their final curtain call.
He had survived the night! A night of strong drama but the ending spoiled it for me …I don’t believe in happily ever after especially when it comes to families of any description…
My view…Over to you!
White Box Theatre’s production, directed by Kym Hardwick, of UNHOLY GHOSTS plays the SBW Stables Theatre until 20th September.
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.