Monday, December 17, 2012

Shakespeare in the Park, 2013

Just a reminder that Shakespeare in the Park is on again in January - they are presenting Much Ado from 4 Jan until 2 Feb at Kings Park, Perth. It's always a good night out and the company needs our support!

Here's what Paige Newmark says on their Facebook page:

Shakespeare WA’s 2013 season of Shakespeare in the Park will feature the Bard’s funniest comedy of relationships, Much Ado About Nothing, 4 January to 2 February 2013. Tickets are on sale now at . A great Christmas Gift!

Much Ado About Nothing will be set locally in Western Australia, at the end of the Second World War. A ‘Shakespeare meets Dad’s Army’, this hilarious war of the sexes will delight audiences with its mixture of star-lit romance, scheming rogues, and the silliness of the Home Guard.

Our fun-filled and uproarious comedy will be presented at Kings Park and Botanic Garden under the artistic direction of Paige Newmark. The cast will feature the award-winning actress Hannah Day, who is newly arrived from Scotland to play Beatrice, as well as David Davies, who returns to Perth to play Benedick after working with the Bell Shakespeare Company and running his own GB Shakespeare Company in the UK. WA audiences will be delighted to see Sam Longley once again performing at Shakespeare in the Park as the hapless Dogberry, along with a host of Shakespeare WA favourites, Stephen Lee, Sean Walsh, James Hagan, Claire Munday, and Nick Maclaine. We are pleased to welcome Garreth Bradshaw from Upstart Theatre and Marko Jovanovic, as well as newcomers Geordie Crawley, Sophie Lester, and Jordan Holloway to this year’s production. As in past years, our production is designed to appeal to both the classical theatre market and Shakespeare-newcomers alike, as we seek to keep the plays as fresh and relevant as they were when first performed 400 years ago.

In other unique and exciting initiatives planned for 2013, Shakespeare WA will present:
1) An interpreted performance for WA Deaf Society that will be signed by Auslan interpreters;
2) An audio described performance for the Association for the Blind of WA, including the blind and visually impaired community.

Shakespeare WA is thrilled to be continuing its partnership with Australian energy company, Santos, which has extended its long-term support of the arts in other parts of Australia and is now making a difference to the cultural life of the WA community. This season is made possible through its generosity. Shakespeare in the Park is a smoke-free event proudly sponsored by Healthway promoting the Act-Belong-Commit message.

 For more information please contact us at

Women in Shakespeare

Our president, Frances Dharmalingam, offers her thoughts on the December meeting:

The guest speaker for our December meeting was Jan Altmann, who gave us an interesting and entertaining talk on Women in Shakespeare, from the feminist perspective. Most attention was given to Kate, the 'Shrew', with a lively consideration of the many different possible interpretations that can be placed on the ending of the play. Jan also looked at Lady Macbeth, Queen Gertrude, Ophelia and Desdemona. There was so much to think about that time rather got away, and Juliet and Rosalind received only the most cursory glances, much to our disappointment. Jan explored character and text in detail, and left us with a wealth of new ideas and insights.  Her visit made a lively end to the year, and offered new thoughts for next year's programme.

The meeting closed with a convivial break-up celebration, and we are now on hiatus until Saturday, 16 February. Compliments of the season to all Shakespeare lovers everywhere!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing

Frances Dharmalingam, our Fearless Leader, has had the good fortune to see both stage and film versions of the Globe's production of Much Ado. Here are her thoughts and impressions:

Having been enchanted by a performance of Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe Theatre in 2011, I was delighted to learn that a film of that very production would be screened here in Perth, and hot-footed it to the cinema for another joyous experience.

The verve, charm and good humour of the production were immediately apparent, together with the colour and grace of the costumes and set. The audience was readily and completely involved, thanks to the skill of the actors, who played so directly to all corners of the house.

The lovers were perfectly cast and interacted brilliantly with each other, while making the audience deliciously complicit in their every thought. Given a certain style of delivery, their dialogue might come across as abrasive and could lose the onlookers' sympathy, but this Beatrice and Benedick had such charm. Under all the feisty words they suggested such touching vulnerability that all we wanted was for them finally to face reality and fall into each other’s arms.

The comedy was wildly, eye-wateringly funny. During the eavesdropping scenes the lovers balanced humour and tantalising suspense, with Beatrice ducking and weaving among the washing on the line, and Benedick dodging round the pillars and finally climbing an extremely high fruit tree (from which he made a spectacular descent by rope when a servant casually removed the ladder). The Night Watch were a mis-matched awkward squad who relied as much on mime and delightfully inventive use of props as on dialogue for their well-deserved laughs. Clever casting contrasted a very short, deadpan and smugly officious Dogberry with an extremely tall and shamblingly impassive Vergis.

The darker side of the play tempered the merriment with Don John's saturnine jealousy, and the shock of physical and emotional violence, but it passed quickly with the assurance that matters could be put right. The action progressed smoothly through the priest's plan, the revelations of the Watch and Claudio's repentance, to a fittingly happy and boisterous ending.

These were my responses to both the live and the filmed performances, but there were, of course, some differences. The film relied much upon close-up shots, which allowed even greater appreciation of the actors' expressive faces and by-play with the audience, but as a result views of the whole setting were sometimes sacrificed. On such a wide stage, and with the comic interactions within large groups of performers, I felt that we lost some of the broader effects, in focussing so closely on particular speakers. Of course, I might not have thought about this had I not been lucky enough to see the stage version.

In thinking over the whole lovely production, my lasting impression (which was even more evident in the film) was of the wonderful use of silence. The lines were delivered with masterly sense of rhythm, meaning and emotion, and all the actors displayed admirable control of pace and timing, using pause both for suspense prior to making a point, and equally for allowing the point to have its impact after the spoken words.

A recipient of the Olivier Award for Best Actress, Eve Best, played the role of Beatrice.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Staging the World

Here’s a holiday reminiscence from Turab, one of our members:

I was lucky to be able to visit the Shakespeare Exhibition at the British Museum on Thursday 26th September.

The exhibition consisted of historical objects/artefacts from the Elizabethan era and James I's reign. Each display was synched with appropriate excerpts from a relevant play or real historical event. The excerpts were read by famous stage actors. Also, one could view on screen and listen to famous Shakespearean actors reciting the famous speeches from selected plays.

I found it most enjoyable and a good learning experience. It took me two and half hours to get around in a wheelchair!

The exhibition is on until 25th November I do recommend it if you happen to be in London in November.

Shakespeare: Staging the World tickets cost £14 / £12 concessions, free for members and under 16s, £7 between 12-4.30pm on Mondays. For more information, check out the press release on the British Museum’s website.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

June Hatton, 22/6/1924 - 5/9/2012

On behalf of the Shakespeare Club of Western Australia, our president, Frances, accepted the honour of speaking at June Hatton's funeral last month. June belonged to the Perth Shakespeare Club for many years, and was one of our most knowledgeable members. Much-loved by her fellow members, not just for her scholarship and her lovely reading, but for her gentleness, humour and modesty, June passed away after a short illness and her death was shock to us all. She will be sorely missed at our meetings.

Frances was asked to represent the club and to offer a reading in memory of June, acknowledging her love of all poetry. This is what Frances said:

As you have heard, June was for many years a member of the Shakespeare Club of WA – an influential member, held in fond and high regard by us all. We valued June for her unfailingly enthusiastic support for all the Club's activities; we respected her scholarship and the keen insights she brought to the texts we were studying, and we enjoyed her gentle charm and kindly humour.

On behalf of all our members I have selected ‘The Windhover’, by Gerard Manley Hopkins as a tribute to June's special awareness and appreciation of fine language and literature, and particularly to acknowledge her well-known delight in the poetic imagery of the senses and the natural world. I believe that the joyous delicacy of this poem reflects much of June's own spirit, and her gentle but acute sensitivities.
I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! Then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend; the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird--the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! And the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it; sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
Vale, June.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Our study of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus.

Frances, our president, has led the last two meetings in a study of Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus. Here she gives us her thoughts on the experience.

To watch a performance of Dr. Faustus is to be absorbed in the characters of Faustus and Mephistophilis and their struggle, and to be entertained by the comic scenes, dazzled by the displays of magical powers and the pageantry of the mimes and masques, and almost overwhelmed by the horror of the finale.

Reading the play, however, gives me another perspective. I focus more fully on the language, and reading the play is to experience a giddying sense of whirling through time and space. We traverse the globe and its surrounds in the references to lands from the Americas to the Orient, from the Antarctic to Lapland; to the sun, moon and stars, and all the layers of the firmament; and to the ocean depths. We see or hear of people from the ancient past – actual or mythical – and personages contemporary with Faustus, including ruling princes and claimants to the Papacy, side by side with clowns and peasants.

There is an impression of watching through a marvellous lens.  At times we can focus minutely on the one man, Faustus, in his study, but then the vision widens: to Wittenberg, to Germany, to Europe, to the entire (known) world, as Faustus flies across it with Mephistophilis. 

Visions of great figures from the past expand our sense of passing time, but Time, in another way, is always before us in the knowledge that Faustus has a specified number of years to live.  We see those twenty-four years passing almost unnoticed, filled with vain and shallow displays of magical trickery, and then suddenly we are at the final hour; the inexorable ticking and chiming of the clock marks the arrival of the pre-determined and inevitable doom.

The extraordinary power of the language evokes vivid images, from the depths of hell to the limits of the universe, often achieved through the striking juxtaposition of everyday colloquialisms with sophisticated poetic techniques.

Here are some of my favourite phrases and images, which illustrate the immense sweep of Marlowe’s vision throughout the telling of this epic struggle.

His waxen wings did mount above his reach,
And melting, heavens conspired his overthrow.

… fly to India for gold,
Ransack the ocean for orient pearl…

Now that the gloomy shadow of the night….
….Leaps from th’Antarctic world unto the sky
And dims the welkin with her pitchy breath…

Be it to make the moon drop from her sphere
Or the ocean to overwhelm the world.

Had I as many souls as there be stars …

Learned Faustus …
 Did mount him up to scale Olympus’ top,
He views the clouds, the planets and the stars,
The tropics, zones and quarters of the sky,
From the bright circle of the horned moon
Even to the height of Primum Mobile.

... the restless course
That time doth run with calm and silent foot.

… the topless towers of Ilium …

… fairer than the evening’s air,
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars.

Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come.

The stars move still; time runs; the clock will strike …

See, see, where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!

… such a dreadful night was never seen
Since first the world’s creation did begin.

And after the horror of Faustus’ end, there is the pathos of the Chorus’s moving commentary:

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight.

Although the play derives from Christian teachings, there is a wider spectrum attained by the frequent references to the Greek and Latin classics:

Be thou on earth as Jove is in the sky

And more frequented for this mystery
Than heretofore the Delphian oracle.

Were she as chaste as was Penelope,
As wise as Saba, or as beautiful
As was bright Lucifer before his fall.

Have not I made blind Homer sing to me
Of Alexander’s love and Oenon’s death?

You shall behold that peerless dame of Greece,
No otherwise for pomp and majesty
Than when Sir Paris crossed the seas with her
And brought the spoils to rich Dardania.

An added pleasure for me, as a modern-day reader, is the constant  memory of other literary references.  Milton, Marvell, Byron, Yeats and Auden are some whose lines echo and chime with Marlowe’s images.  The fall of Lucifer in “Paradise Lost”:

…. Him (Lucifer) the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire …

Marvell:   But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…

Byron:   She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies …

Yeats: And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Auden: ... and the expensive, delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky …

There must be thousands more such quotations which any single phrase might conjure, for each reader, and one could ponder indefinitely on the mutual influences which are at work on our great writers.

Jean-Paul Laurens (1838–1921) Dr Fausto: oil on canvas, 
Rio Grande do Sul Museum of Art, Porto Alegre, Brazil