Tag: James Wardlaw

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

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REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents PENELOPE

Epic poetry and poolside murder

By Myron My

Penelope by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and directed by Alister Smith shows four men seeking to receive the love of Penelope in the absence of her warrior husband, Odysseus. Through hope, fear, anger and passion, will any of them win her love?

Penelope

Upon entering the theatre for this production, we watch a young man scrubbing blood from inside an empty swimming pool. Well, empty from water for it is teeming with deck chairs, books, alcohol and the disturbing red stains. In fact, the pool resembles a beach party for hoarders gone wrong. Taking center stage is a large barbeque with an ominous message for the four men of Penelope.

After this fascinating opening, the story unwinds at a perfect pace: fast enough to keep you interested but slow enough to not reveal everything at once. The mystery of the blood in the pool and the events that led up to that are ever so carefully unveiled through the taut script which works well in keeping the audience intrigued.

In contrast, costume design left little to the imagination, with all four men dressed in swimming trunks – yet each one seemed to convey a strong sense of who this character was. The brutish self-appointed leader, Quinn (Lyall Brooks) was dressed in red speedos – and you really can’t get any more alpha-male than that.

The last act however seemed to lose itself a bit. Despite the audience enjoying it, the “love in 6 acts” scene didn’t seem to have a place in the story. It relied on slapstick humour and not the sharply written dialogue and well thought-out character-driven scenes earlier, but this issue is to do with the play itself and its reworking of Homer’s classic tale rather than the direction or performances.

As this year’s Graduate Ensemble Actor for Red Stitch, Matthew Whitty as Burns certainly does show promise, however the more overtly experienced and skillful actors (Brooks, James Wardlaw and Dion Mills) in Penelope do manage to outshine him, and the impact of the final scene is therefore not as strong as it could be. It is a particularly exceptional performance by Mills as the flamboyant Dunne. His later monologue is compelling to watch as guards are let down and we see the real, vulnerable side to his character.

With strong intelligent direction by Smith, Penelope will have you pondering the moral and emotional questions it raises a good while after the show is over.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 13 April | 8:00pm, Sun 6:30pm

Tickets: $37 Full | $27 Conc

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