Monday, July 21, 2014

Over the hump with a difficult play

Two milestones: mid-year has well and truly passed and we have just finished reading King Lear.

King Lear: Goneril and Regan by Edwin Austin Abbey
 Lear is a difficult play. It has a couple of subplots that complicate the main issue - the cruel way two daughters treat their mad old father, the King - and it's far from being an easy read. It isn't performed often, and it's not hard to see why. One wonders if our Will made it up in a hurry one dark night because the players didn't have anything to perform for an important gig.

True to form, he stole the main plot from earlier works based on the same tradition, and the sub plots from other sources. Some like to class it as one of the 'problem plays', and certainly it has many problems for anyone bold enough to consider producing or directing it. It's the first time the club has read it since I joined some ten or twelve years ago, and it's not hard to see why it hasn't been put forward for reading before. It is, quite simply, too difficult to embrace in two afternoons of reading. I feel I would have benefitted from a full semester's lectures on this play! And I must admit that I would have preferred an ending like the one proposed by Geoffrey of Monmouth, in which Cordelia restores her father to the throne, and succeeds him as ruler after his death. Our Will must have been in a melancholy mood when he set pen to paper for this one!

Measure for Measure: Isabella  by Francis William Topham
 Never mind - next month we move on to Measure for Measure. While not the lightest of The Bard's works, it certainly appears to be comic relief after King Lear! There are quite a lot of funny bits: enough to keep the attention of people who, like me, will always choose comedy over tragedy.

After that's on with A Winter's Tale, which is another slightly problematical play: it starts off as if it were to be a drama, but becomes lighter and funnier as the plot wears on. Much depends on the production: there are plenty of opportunities for 'business' and a spot of ad-libbing that can lighten the tone of the play considerably.

New members will be welcome to attend any of the remaining meetings for the year. The next one will be on Saturday,16 August - as usual, in the back room of the Citizens Centre on Perth Railway Station Concourse.

Images by courtesy of Wikipedia

Friday, June 13, 2014

Review: Black Swan's As you like it.

Several members saw the WA State Theatre's production of one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies. Frances Dharmalingam gives us her impressions.

Jovana Miletic as Rosalind. (Image by Rob Frith)
The recent Black Swan State Theatre’s production of As You Like It was at least the fourth professional performance I have seen (apart from a student show in which I participated) and this was certainly the one which provoked in me the most frequent outbursts of real laughter – not just silent chuckles.

This version was not just modernised.  It was right up to the minute, and I was amazed at how easily it was delivered in 21st century idiom.  Corin the shepherd (Greg McNeill) provided a notable example, expressing his comfortable aphorisms in the voice of an outback Aussie farmer.

One of the delights of the whole performance was the clarity of the actors’ diction and their impeccable phrasing.  Not a word or a subtlety was lost.  The characters were strikingly individual, and their energetic portrayals were effectively supported by the clever and amusing costumes.

Le Beau (Brendan Hanson) made use of every possible innuendo in his lines, but managed to do so without offence, and created an unforgettable character out of one who normally fades rapidly from the memory.  Similarly, Phoebe (Cecelia Peters): a very pert little miss flouncing about on terrifyingly high shoes.  Her exit through the forest, off to write a stinging rebuke to Ganymede, was stunningly funny (even though the accompanying music went right past me: I’m not well acquainted with current pop music).  Then there was Audrey (Caitlin Beresford-Ord) with her extraordinary fidgety gestures perfectly suggestive of her excitement at Touchstone’s proximity, and her extraordinary contortions while locating and eliminating a flea.

This is not to suggest that the supporting players outshone the main performers.  The three young leads had energy, charm, humour and intelligence in abundance.  Orlando (James Sweeney) began the play with a style which set the tone for the evening. He dealt skilfully with the long opening speech, evoking more laughs than I would have thought possible in what is essentially necessary background information.

Rosalind (Jovana Miletic) and Celia (Grace Smibert) were delightful as best-friend schoolgirls and grew to lovely maturity in the course of the play. Celia was a more assertive character than sometimes depicted.  Her ‘forest’ costume of smart riding breeches and boots emphasised her self-confidence while in no way reducing her femininity. Rosalind on the other hand looked convincingly boyish and adopted an amusingly gangling walk, while never letting us lose sight of her essentially female nature. Her transformation at the end, revealing herself as daughter to the old Duke, and lover to Orlando, was delicately charming, and she brought the performance to a perfect conclusion with her handling of the epilogue.

Other highlights – and there were many – included the brilliantly choreographed wrestling match and the beautiful forest setting.  Although the bursts of recorded modern music were no doubt well chosen to enhance the point of particular scenes,  they meant little to me; but I enjoyed Brendan Hanson’s live singing (as Amiens) which set the quietly nostalgic mood for the exiles in the woodland.

This performance was a happy interpretation of a well-loved comedy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Getting a handle on the Bard's language

The English language has been constantly developing and evolving over the centuries, and here Richard, a member of the Shakespeare Club of WA, seeks to give the modern reader a clue to the meaning then extant of some of the words the Bard used or in some cases, invented! William Shakespeare’s extensive vocabulary would have been generally understood and appreciated by those of the play-going upper-class, some of whom nevertheless might have blushed at the earthier expressions relished by those of the hoi polloi audience. Yet the latter, ignorant of many of the high-falutin’ terms, would still have given each play a rousing reception, at times interacting vociferously with the players.

punishment/torture by caning of the soles  of the bare feet
hag, virago
flatter fulsomely
cheat, defraud, act deceitfully
dregs, refuse
bunch of twigs for burning at the stake
broad, curved sword
express disgust,  or pretence of outraged propriety
fiery dragon
(v t)
avert, keep off
no doubt, truly,
dupe, fool
express indignation, surprise
solid, weighty
in spite of
pell mell
(a, adv)
in disorder, recklessly
small basin/bowl for soup, etc
having great power or influence, mighty
impudent/ill-behaved girl or woman
member of a sect
tax rate
abandoned habit
bar person who draws & serves liquor
(v t)
condescend to do

a = adjective      adv = adverb     int = interjection      n = noun                              
 prep = preposition       v = verb     v  t = transitive verb