Saturday, October 22, 2016

Perth loves Shakespeare.

A wonderful day yesterday, celebrating four centuries of Shakespeare! The University of Perth's lovely campus was swamped by fans who came to take part in the festivities.

Caitlin Beresford-Ord and Igor Sas playing
Queen Elizabeth I and our beloved Will!
Photo Courtesy of the #400 Facebook page
Along with colleagues Frances, Jon and Rosalind, I helped to man a 'sonnet exchange', where visitors to the celebrations could contribute a sonnet of their own writing and exchange it for one of Shakespeare's. This was done by tying tiny scrolls to the 'sonnet tree'. We collected the submissions at the end of the day, with a view to reading them aloud at a meeting one day soon. I hope we can get permission from the authors to publish them here, too.

Personally, I was blown away by the numbers. I'd envisaged a cosy little function with maybe a few dozen attendees, but there were hundreds of visitors! Our stall was very busy, and not only with sonnet swaps. It was the first stall in view as visitors entered the area, so we were swamped with all kinds of requests ranging from 'Where are the toilets?' to 'Where can I get tickets to ...' so we became a de facto information booth. A few visitors didn't know what a sonnet was, yet after having the form described to them, they proceeded to write perfectly acceptable fourteen liners!

Many thanks to the prime movers, Rebecca Davis and Michelle Fournasier of Big Sky Entertainment.

You can read more about the event on the Facebook page

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sonnet Competition Winners!

Prof. Wortham reads the list of winners
Yesterday – Saturday 15 October – was a red letter day for the Shakespeare Club of Western Australia. We kicked off our celebrations of Shakespeare 400 with a happy get-together to announce the winners of our sonnet competition.

Frances, our president, opened the proceedings by reading excerpts from the lovely ‘Obituary’  from the New York Times of April 23 this year, and went on to tell the capacity audience about how we came to have a sonnet competition as part of our celebrations. It was the brainchild of Rob, one of our members. His idea was quickly taken up by the committee and a judge was engaged in the person of Professor Chris Wortham.

Professor Wortham joked in his introductory address that perhaps he should have bought a bullet-proof vest or sought police protection, since judging any kind of competition is invariably contentious. ‘Sonnet writing,’ Professor Worthing went on, ‘is art in miniature, much like the miniature portraits so much in vogue a few centuries ago’. And speaking more generally, he suggested that the arts aim to recover what humankind lost in the Garden of Eden.

Shakespeare lived in a time when there was a growing interest in, and respect for, education. For the first time, boys of middle class families were receiving an education, and to show that ‘Jack’s as good as his master’, many such students took up writing as a profession.

The winners in the student category demonstrated a maturity beyond their years. The first-place-getter, Karl Robinson, gave us ‘Glass and Birds’, a poem that contrasted the city with nature. The second and third prize winners followed in like vein. Kayla Gent, in second place, submitted a lovely sonnet ‘White Clouds of Foam’, and similarly, third place-getter Anna Lewis, wrote ‘An Ocean Wave’, which compared and contrasted spiritual and sensual experience. These were all lovely pieces and no-one could have envied Professor Wortham’s task in choosing the winner.

Owen Keene  in declamatory mode!
(Photos by Jon Greenacre)
The Adult section was also full of talent. Shirley Wild took out first place with ‘Birthright’, a praise of Western Australian identity and pride. Mary Jones’s ‘The Wild Geese’ celebrated the rescue of Irish prisoners in Fremantle by Catalpa, an American ship, in 1876. Professor Wortham described this work as ’a spirited, sprightly, well-constructed account of a historical incident'. The third prize-winner, Ian Reid, wrote ‘The Long Wait’, about the juncture of the Swan and Canning rivers, which was described by Professor Wortham as ‘a nice confluence of language and tone’. The professor went on to impress on poets the importance of flow, rhythm and metre when writing in sonnet form.

Many other works were worthy of mention, and to demonstrate, several entrants offered to read their own entries. Patricia Cole’s ‘Just Love’, Maureen Barton’s ‘The Colours of Serendipity’ and Don Blundell-Wignall’s ‘Yagan’ showed the diversified talents of entries in general.

Running this competition made us realise that there is not only great depth and breadth of talent in Perth, but that sonnet-writing is still loved by many writers and readers. Long may the love continue!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

And likewise, a missing Alison!

We are trying to contact a lady named Alison Hewson who used to belong to the Shakespeare Club of Western Australia. However, her old phone number is not working. There are several Facebookers of that name, but I haven't found one who lives in Perth. Any help in tracing our mysterious Alison will be appreciated!

And Alison, if you see this, please contact the Shakespeare Club ASAP. We want to invite you to a special function.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Audrey, where art thou?

Calling Audrey Molloy! Audrey, you sent your entry fee for the sonnet competition but we haven't received an entry from you. Has it gone astray in the mail, I wonder? If you resend your entry at once you will still make the deadline for the judging.

(S'OK. folks - Audrey got back to us and the matter was sorted out.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Othello revisited: a character sketch of Emilia

Almost exactly a year ago, we posted a commentary on Othello, and recently May-Lee asked in a comment if someone might be able to write a character sketch of Emilia, the villain Iago's long-suffering wife. Our president, Frances, has obliged with the following fascinating post.

My impression of Emilia is of a warm-hearted and spirited woman unfortunately trapped in a miserable marriage. She is confident with Othello and Desdemona, her “employers”, and is capable of answering back sharply when Iago provokes her. She is kindly concerned for Cassio and readily tries to help him.

Her first appearance is on arrival at Cyprus. Iago’s reception of her after a period of separation is hardly welcoming; he accuses her of being a nagging wife and talking too much, and goes on to speak disrespectfully of women in general. What a contrast with the joyful reunion between Othello and Desdemona.

With no possibility of divorce and no financial independence, Emilia has to obey Iago. She cannot imagine why he so eagerly wants Desdemona’s special handkerchief, but when it comes by accident into her possession she relinquishes it to him. Once again he shows his surly nature and treats her very rudely. Their relative status is reflected when she says to herself: “I nothing, but to please his fantasy.”

Emilia is very fond of Desdemona, but she dare not say what she has done with the handkerchief, despite Desdemona’s extreme distress. Emilia’s low opinion of men is strengthened by Othello’s outburst of rage, but she wonders how he could possibly be jealous of Desdemona and stoutly defends her mistress against any imputation of wrongdoing with Cassio.

When Othello directly accuses Desdemona of whoring, Emilia is appalled and stresses the cruelty and unfairness of such a charge. Furiously she realises that Othello has been misled; as she thinks: just as “someone” misled Iago into thinking that she herself had been unfaithful with Othello. But even while discussing all this with Iago it does not occur to her that Iago is the instigator. She is too honest to imagine how anyone could so dupe another.

The scene with Desdemona in the bedroom shows Emilia’s fondness for the younger woman as she tenderly helps her to prepare for the night, and their conversation highlights the differences between their life experiences and attitudes: Emilia the realist and Desdemona the romantic idealist. Emilia believes that women’s feelings and senses are equal with men’s and that they should be able to retaliate in kind to bad treatment or infidelity (even though in fact circumstances prevent this for her.)

She is genuinely grief-stricken on discovering the dying Desdemona. At first incredulous, she finally understands Iago’s role in these events and turns her fury first on her husband: ‘May his pernicious soul rot half a grain a day’ and then on Othello.

With her heart breaking for Desdemona and the full realisation of Iago’s villainy she at last grasps the significance of the handkerchief episode. Even as her husband murders her, she attests to Desdemona’s innocence and love for Othello.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sonnet competition again

Our sonnet competition has received some very good entries - but not enough of them! While we are delighted with the standard of the entries, we do hope more people can be encouraged to send in their sonnets.

Originally, we barred members of the Club from entering, but entry numbers to date suggest that perhaps most of the people who write sonnets are already members of The Shakespeare Club of Western Australia! Therefore, the Committee has decided to open the competition to members of the Club. Members are advised that they must not enter under their own names, but use a nom-de-plume, so that the judging can take place on a level playing field.

So come on, members! Pay homage to our beloved bard by putting pen to paper. Or, rather, fingers to keyboard!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Shakespeare 400 film

Several members (see an earlier review below, from our president) have seen this film and enjoyed it, and Natalie has also written a review:

I went along to the Windsor cinema to see the film Shakespeare Live! from the RSC, not knowing what to expect, but convinced that I would be in for a wonderful few hours. It was full of surprises and though realizing at the end that I was out of touch with many of the new ways of presenting things, I left exhilarated. 

The film began with scenes of Stratford, the theatre & its history and a few places associated with Shakespeare’s life; then brought us into the theatre with an audience. From time to time throughout the show, a film would be thrown on a screen at the back or above the back of the stage, and it worked smoothly on the whole. The gang fight and ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story began the performance, followed immediately by the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. This prepared us well for a program consisting of scenes from the plays plus extracts from the works of artists from other countries in varied forms such as dance, opera and music – all inspired by Shakespeare!

Comperes David Tennant and Catherine Tate
The show was compered by David Tennant, and featured many notable thespians including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tim Minchin, Rufus Wainwright, John Lithgow, David Suchet, Rory Kinnear and Joseph Fiennes. Artistic Director Gregory Doran is to be congratulated on assembling such a notable cast. We got a marvelous ‘Brush up your Shakespeare’ from Cole Porter’s Kiss me Kate, complete with a Jimmy Durante; a melting duet from Berlioz and a chuckling chorus from Verdi’s Falstaff as well as the straight plays. 

R&J: Natey Jones and Mariah Gale
The balcony scene was the highlight for me: the young actress had charm & a young voice full of light and shade. She is surely an up-and-coming to look out for. The actor playing Macbeth impressed me very much and the murder scene was another highlight. The death of Cleopatra seen at close quarters was certainly another. I thought Paul Schofield had walked on to join the group of former Hamlets in the ‘To be or not to be’, skit but it turned out to be Ian McKellen when he turned full face. Still, nothing wrong with that, and a lovely moment!

One scene that surprised me and made me wonder why it had not been done that way always was the proposal in Henry V. I wonder what others who have seen the film thought? Olivier & Renee Asherson were banished forever by these young independent young royals; yet I was puzzled as to how the scene would fit into the play when seen as a whole.

Words in the Hip Hop theatre were lost on me because I could not keep my attention from the dancers’ fascinating trousers. My companion singled out Malvolio’s combined embarrassment and ambition as a highlight and I was sorry this act was over so quickly.

Overall, I missed most of the words of the sonnets, luxuriating in the nice, slow delivery of the Royal Shakespeare players. Some of the effects that particularly caught my eye were the out-of-this-world fairies (blue) on Titania’s float, Bottom’s ears, Macbeth’s dangling tie, the Prince of Denmark’s ruff, and the snake in Cleopatra’s hands. How I would love to see those productions in full, I thought as I left, compiling my own little program!

PS: Photos (by Helen Maybank) are from the Royal Shakespeare Company's website. And if you can't get to see this amazing film, you can buy the DVD from the site.