Tag: Brian Lipson

Theatre Works Presents ANTI-HAMLET

Fierce, funny and fraught

By Leeor Adar

Satirising the current state of Australian politics with the heady and destructive tendencies of the Prince of Denmark lends for a wild, funny, and at times utterly confusing production. Just as I’ve grasped one metaphor and issue, Mark Wilson’s Anti-Hamlet shifts us onto the next, expecting its audience to intelligently manoeuvre themselves through the multi-layered political arc Wilson has created.

Anti-Hamlet.jpg

This is the third of Wilson’s Shakespearean adaptations after Unsex Me and Richard II. Wilson comments that these productions “inherit from Shakespeare”, and fill the gaps. On this occasion, Wilson engages with the Australian inability to confront its history. History is the underlying theme of Anti-Hamlet, but I am deeply sceptical as to how tenuously Hamlet itself connects to a country’s collective blindness.  I will say in Wilson’s defence, his ability to bring Shakespeare’s Hamlet into contemporary ‘realness’ and embellish its themes with references to the Australian political climate is impressive. That is no easy feat. Despite this tenuous connection, the key issues rage on. A young man, both sexually and politically impotent – afraid and trying to find meaning at a time when ‘democracy’ feels more like forcing kool-aid down your throat.

Wilson is wildly funny and painfully irritating as Hamlet. Wilson is accompanied by some theatre-heavyweights in Marco Chiappi’s Claudius, Natasha Herbert’s Gertrude, and Brian Lipson’s marvellous contribution as Sigmund Freud. These actors brilliantly dive into Wilson’s writing and bring to life the characters in an exciting and relevant way. Herbert’s Gertrude is an indulgent, lazy queen whose concern is with turning her gaze towards her possessions rather than noticing that her power is waning. Chiappi’s Claudius is the fabulous politician in the blue tie (a wink to our political leaders), desperate to become President of Australia’s new Republic. A new addition is the role of Freud, and it’s so apt that Freud should show up as the family psychiatrist to stir Hamlet et al. Freud, like Hamlet in this production, is a self-aware character that almost recognises that he is party to a play and merely a plot device. It works very well, and adds yet another intricate layer to this complex work.

Anti-Hamlet unpacks two issues astonishingly well. Firstly, there’s the spin-doctoring behind politics, which takes on a seductive and serpentine fervour in Charles Purcell’s energetic American marketer, Edward Bernays. Secondly, there is the idealism of those politically-minded young Australians who succumb to the political machine in a feeble attempt to create change in the world. Ophelia (Natascha Flowers) is the modern woman; she’s no limp-limbed belle of Shakespeare’s imaginings. A Rhodes Scholar and Oxford graduate, Ophelia comes brimming with ambition for a better nation, but is the futile pawn to a more experienced and cynical power under Claudius and his newly-minted henchman, Bernays. Wilson’s Hamlet serves as the alternative to Ophelia – a politically awakened youth with nothing but privilege and a blossoming conscience who thinks taking back ‘blackface’ to undermine racism is an acceptable and intelligent statement. Hamlet is politically impotent, and this funnels through into his sexuality, which he attempts to mask. This is a striking point of discussion for this production, because it single-handedly takes on issues that are utterly relevant in Australian politics today, but does so in a manner that humours and pinches those politically aware within its audience.

Anti-Hamlet is self-indulgent and utterly self-aware. If you’re a Shakespeare puritan, perhaps step away. However, if you’re interested in a play that engages with the politics of today in an original way, you may be convinced to come down to Theatre Works and indulge yourself… and Wilson.

Anti-Hamlet continues to run Thursday-Saturday 8pm, and Sunday 5pm until November 13 at Theatre Works in St Kilda. Afternoon session at 2pm Saturday. Book your tickets here: http://www.theatreworks.org.au/whatson/buyeventtickets/?id=278

Image by Sarah Walker

Advertisements

REVIEW: night maybe at THEATREWORKS

Into the darkness…

By Myron My

night maybe

Entering the theatre space at Theatreworks for night maybe felt like I was venturing into an ethereal world. I immediately felt the stillness of my surroundings whilst a swirl of fog hid much of the set; all I could see was grass and I half-expected some zombies to come staggering out like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, such was the intensity.

Instead, two siblings Tom and Sasha (Tom Conroy and Sarah Ogden), appear and they are lost in a park. They argue and Tom disappears leaving Sasha alone. From there, she meets a variety of characters, and it’s up to us to determine if they are real or imaginary. It’s like Alice has stepped into Wonderland again but the darkness dial has been turned up a few notches. It’s a world where time seems to be ignored: watches are broken and people are running late.

Both leads are strong and show their versatility with a demanding script that could easily have resulted in them getting too caught up in the complexities and rushing through or losing their momentum, but they stay true to their characters and the themes of the show. The supporting cast of Marcus McKenzie and Brian Lipson further solidify the remarkable acting in night maybe.

Kit Brookman’s script is like a cloud of black smoke which slowly envelops us as it deals with issues of love, being alone and abandonment. The lines are delivered fast, which is a nice contrast to the minimal action happening on stage. This is a wordy play with lots to think about so it’s good not to be too overwhelmed especially with the technical styling.

Mel Page’s set creation is one of the simplest yet most effective ones I have seen for some time: there is real grass laid out covering the stage, with three leafless trees hidden in the mist and darkness. Richard Vabre’s lighting design and his use of shadows, darkness and depth suggests that the park we find ourselves in extends for eternity, adding a supernatural overtone to the show. I particularly enjoyed the effectiveness of characters coming out from within the shadows and disappearing back into them.

However, it was James Brown’s haunting music and sound that really and aptly struck a chord with me. From eerie soundtrack moments to a lone piano key being played – there is reason and purpose to everything he creates. Without giving too much away, one particular scene had me almost gasping for breath and provoked a very strong visual response from me too.

It is rare when all the elements of a show come together in such a perfect way to create a special piece of theatre. night maybe is a glorious example of this.  

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 1 September | Tues- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm

Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Conc

Bookings: 9534 3388 or http://www.theatreworks.org.au