Tag: Helen Hopkins

Nothing But Roaring Presents THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

Fast, fresh and funny – just as farce should be

By Narelle Wood

The Merry Wives of Windsor is Shakespeare, (almost) as it should be; there are minimal sets and theatre-in-the-round style seating – the only differences are modern costumes, a roof on the theatre, female actors and a One Direction reference or two.

The Merry Wives of Windsor.jpg

It’s not a play that I’m familiar with, but it follows all the main plot points of a classic Shakespearean farce that makes it instantly recognisable. The farce is based on making a mockery of John Falstaff (Tom Considine) who declares that he shall seduce not one but two of the wives of Windsor. The wives of Windsor, Mistress Ford (Carole Patullo) and Mistress Page (Helen Hopkins), upon hearing this decide that revenge through humiliation will be a befitting antidote for Falstaff’s lustful and presumptuous ways. As is the case in most Shakespearean plays, the minor characters wield havoc as they manipulate and betray each of their masters, and this results in the one not-so-merry husband of Windsor (Master Ford played by James Wardlaw) planning an entrapment of his own to prove his wife unfaithful. Meanwhile several suitors vie for Anne Page’s (Jing-Xuan Chan) hand in marriage, which adds to the intrigue as lies are told and deceit unfolds.

There is so much going on in this play, with twists in plot and a number of soliloquys and asides, that the minimalist approach of basic set and lighting is a welcomed relief. For the most part the Shakespearean language fluidly rolled off the casts’ tongues, as would be expected of actors of this calibre, but it also means that the dialogue is unapologetically fast. There is also an unexpected challenge in deciphering the Bard’s prose; Shakespearean language mixed with a Hugh Evans’ well-articulated Welsh accent made sure I was definitely concentrating on what was being said.

The actors all played multiple characters, with small costume changes signalling the character changes, and they all effortlessly morph from idiot suitor to jock-houseboy, from simple houseboy to jealous husband or whatever other transformations are required. The actors, under Rob Conkie’s direction, also make impressive use of the space; not once, even with the actors’ directing their attention to the other seating areas, did I feel excluded from the performance. The farcical nature of the plot was often reflected in the physical performances of the characters, gesticulating, groping or gyrating for humorous effect.

It’s hard to shy away from Shakespeare in a year that marks the 400th anniversary of his death. There will be a lot of Shakespeare on offer but The Merry Wives of Windsor is an amusing tale and this production makes for a very merry evening indeed.

Venue: Fortyfive Downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne

Season: Until Sunday 1st May, Tuesday-Saturday 7.30pm, Sunday 5pm

Tickets: Full $38| Conc $28

Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com

REVIEW: La Mama Presents HABITUAL CRIMINAL

Fascinating biography reaches a new audience

By Myron My

Amy Maud Bock was a New Zealand confidence trickster and male impersonator in the late 1800s/early 1900s. She was also the first child of Carolyn Bock’s great-grandfather Alfred. Using press articles and Amy’s own letters and transcripts, Bock attempts to bring this woman to life once more in this new work-in-development Habitual Criminal.

Habitual Criminal

All the actors – Martin Blum, Chris Bunworth, Helen Hopkins and Bock – were full of energy, displaying strong commitment to their roles. The myriad of characters they each portrayed – even if only for a few minutes – was done with much gusto, especially from Hopkins and Bunworth. I can see them having more fun with the roles as they develop this piece further and no longer require the script on stage with them, giving them the opportunity to use their hands and bodies more freely and to maintain eye contact with each other and the audience.

The props and costumes, whilst kept to a minimum, did well in setting the scenes up and providing context to the story. The character changes that happened with the removal of a shawl or the putting on of a coat were creatively executed and never broke the flow of the story.

Habitual Criminal was performed as part of La Mama’s Explorations season of works in various developments and in Bock’s own words, ‘this is the beginning’ of this production. It’s a very impressive and dynamic beginning too, however I feel the pace needed to slow down a little to allow for the audience to fully digest and comprehend what was happening on stage. I often found myself working hard to keep up with the actors and the material, and felt I lost quite a bit in trying to play catch-up. The story of Amy Maud Bock is quite unique and highly interesting – as my own research as inspired by this show has shown – so it would be a shame for any of this to be lost in translation and execution.