Tag: William Shakespeare

Company 13 Presents MACDETH

Clever Shakespeare for cunning kids

By Rebecca Waese

Company 13’s Macdeth at the Arts Centre Melbourne is a cracking updated kid-friendly classic with a keen awareness of physical comedy and a respect for the tastiest morsels of Shakespeare’s prose that fire up the formative neurons of young brains. Director James Pratt and a strong core company of four accomplished actors have devised a high-intensity, playful and powerful tale of how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth grow greedy enough to kill King Duncan and a few other innocent characters who get in the way of Macbeth and his throne.


King Duncan (John Forman) is a lovable buffoon and makes deliciously embarrassing errors such as reading his doctor’s note about his bottom cream instead of his royal proclamation. Aurora Kurth is excellent as Banquo, Macbeth’s fit and hearty best friend, and in her role as a servant who constantly interrupts key soliloquies and leaves the audience quite desperate to hear the words Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are trying so hard to say. What a terrific device this turns out to be to encourage the audience to tune in to the most memorable speeches.

Just gross enough to make the kids squeal, the play brings the violent tale to life with clowning prowess, false teeth falling in the cauldron and fake blood explosions of silly string spewing all over the stage. There are many levels, however, to the production. It isn’t all fart jokes and echo gags although these are done exceptionally well. Music underscores the action from bass-playing assassins to the eerie sound of a whirly tube as the witches predict the future. The sparse set is innovative and versatile with a vertical bed for the Macbeths and a backdrop of illuminated stars. Duncan’s murder is executed with cold-blooded deliberation after the four actors march, trance-like, with disharmonic vocals under red lights toward the scene of the crime. Macbeth, brilliantly played by Christian Bagin, with a goofy German accent and the simple desire to please his wife and be adored by all, asks, “What have we done?” and brings a startling moment of recognition to his murderous actions. Lady Macbeth, played convincingly by Fiona Roake, descends from clarity and purpose into madness. Comedy is left behind, briefly, as the young audience contemplates the consequences of ambition and greed.

Not dumbed down by any means but full of gags and self-reflective mayhem, Macdeth bridges a gap for kids who might glaze over under reams of iambic pentameter but respond to the passion, humour and intelligent complexities Shakespeare uncovers in human nature. This is a great first taste of Shakespeare and an enjoyable version for the initiated. Macdeth is ‘full of sound and fury’ but it signifies far more than nothing; it is a fine feat and well worth seeing.

Recommended for ages 8+.

Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 19 – 21 January 2017 (11.00am & 2.00pm)
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

Western Edge Presents CALIBAN

Dynamic and captivating

By Leeor Adar

The culturally diverse Western Edge Youth Arts’ Edge Ensemble under the directorship of Dave Kelman and Tariro Mavondo delivers a spirited, vibrant and painfully accurate adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Caliban.


Who is Caliban in this tale?

We are not dealing with a deformed witch’s son, but a native of an island, which carries the spirit of his mother – all mothers – in the sand, air and water. The Edge Ensemble’s Caliban (Oti Willoughby) is every pure thing, every angry living thing that despises the poisons inflicted by civilisation on the natural world.

In this tale Prospero is Prospera (Natalie Lucic), and Ariel (Piper Huynh) is a machine, not spirit, that can think up realities to save the planet from global warming and other ills that contribute to the inevitable downfall of our world. But Prospera needs capital. Propera needs wealth. Prospera’s adopted daughter, Miranda (Achai Deng), is shipped off with billionaire Afghani, Ferdinand (Abraham Herasan) for a better life, a life of opulence, but little freedom and incredible isolation. It is ironically a lonely and uncertain life at the top of the world, but all is not lost.

Caliban tackles big ideas with humour and poignancy. This is a remarkable and highly physical performance delivered by an ensemble with differing physicality. The performers are excellent, emotive, funny and totally humane. So much of the story told is delivered by this troupe through their bodies, and they each deliver something unique. Credit must be given to movement director, Amy MacPherson, who has successfully conjured the best of the cast. The set design by Lara Week, who previously worked with Mavondo in Greg Ulfan’s 3 Sisters, provides yet another bright and adaptable space that works well for the performers. Turquoise cylinders serve as podiums, seats, towers, and the ever-present reminder of man-made waste.

There is at the heart of this story a great longing for a home that is being stolen by land erosion and war. On one hand our lovers, Ferdinand and Miranda, each long for their homes, Afghanistan and the Sudanese Abyei Area, each torn, each broken by the worst of human nature. On the other, Phano (Rexson Pelman) longs for a Samoa with an uncertain future, and Caliban for his island home – two examples of the fate rendered by the hands of global warming, another ongoing man-made calamity.

The tragedy of our characters is that they each seek to do well, but fail fundamentally on their quest. It is deeply Shakespearean, but simply a timeless tale of humanity. Prospera is blinded by her mind, Ferdinand by his desire for respect, and Caliban by his anger. Their undoing is deeply psychological and a result of the previous ills of man-made affliction. And so is the cycle of human nature…

Caliban will be showing for its final night tonight, November 26 at 7pm at the Coopers Malthouse Theatre. Bookings: http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/caliban

Image by Nicola Dracoulis

REVIEW: La Mama Theatre Presents THE PLAY’S THE THING

The Bard has a lot to answer for

By Beth Cregan

Take one young, intense actor (Louise O’Dwyer) totally committed to perfecting her craft (she’s earnest in that ‘bring own thermos of tea and sandwiches’ kind of way!) Add an experienced, caffeine-powered matriarch (Maureen Hartley) who’s been around the traps. She’s seen it all but more importantly, she knows it all too! Mix in a tired theatre director, (Peppa Sindar) who would love her job, if it wasn’t for the damn actors.

The Plays the Thing

Cast all three characters in a performance, add a misplaced techie and an absent writer to take the flak and you have the makings of a playful drama set in the theatre world. From hilarious warm-up exercises to well-worn power plays, The Play’s The Thing shines the comic spotlight on what happens when words (and egos) collide. Thankfully, despite the conflict and constant coffee breaks, Shakespeare wins out in the end.

Clever writing and superb characterisation create this dialogue-driven drama. Set at La Mama’s Theatre, the close proximity of actors and audience help create the ‘fly on the wall’ intimacy that works so well for this comedy. Louise O’Dwyer and Maureen Hartley pair beautifully in this play and their strong characters certainly bring the script to life. Defined in opposition, their need to control ‘their patch‘  keeps the tension tight. Peppa Sindar as the Director skillfully balances the energy between them. Mind you, her character could circumvent a fair amount of the drama by stepping up to the plate a little sooner, but then we’d miss out on some classic and memorable scenes like Dwyer’s vocal warm-ups and Hartley’s demonstration of physical theatre.

This talented cast of actors not only earn the audience’s laughter, but they work seamlessly to perform a multi-layered, complex play within a play. Written and directed by Brenda Palmer, you won’t need any inside knowledge of the theatre world to enjoy this performance. You’ll recognise these characters anywhere.

The Play’s The Thing is playing at La Mama Theatre from February 20 – March 2, 2014. Tickets available online at http://lamama.com.au/summer-2014/the-plays-the-thing/