Tag: Jonathan Peck

Melbourne Shakespeare Company Presents MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Blithe, beguiling and fantastically fun

By Leeor Adar

Delivering yet another flamboyant jewel to the Shakespearean scene this summer, Melbourne Shakespeare Company (MSC) returns with Much Ado About Nothing.

Much Ado About Nothing

MSC manages to hook its audiences with its flair for performing some of the great comedies of Bill Shakespeare in a way that is totally enjoyable and easily accessible by audiences of today. So much of the work comes together due to its excellent direction from Jennifer Sarah Dean and her talented crew and ensemble cast.

The start of summer in Melbourne delivered some intense rainfall, and set in the beautiful rose garden of the St Kilda Botanic Gardens, the cast of Much Ado played on. We were thankfully housed under a marquee, but the cast’s professionalism through the occasional lashings of rain was commendable. With white frocks and florals a-plenty, the production was clearly set for warm days and balmy evenings. The use of the rose garden was artful for this production, and the creative use of space in the usual MSC style, was exceptional.

Much Ado is one of the more popular Shakespearean comedies, where the arrows and slings between leads Beatrice and Benedick, make for some enjoyable viewing. If you can get past the cruelty of Claudio’s treatment of Hero, it makes for a charmingly feather-light play.

Leading as Beatrice, Annabelle Tudor embodied the character’s classic snarky attitude and emotional range with humorous flair and passion. Tudor makes an excellent Beatrice, and her understanding of physical comedy (like much of the cast) is quality. As Beatrice’s counterpart Benedick, Fabio Motta gives a charming and delightfully warm performance, which is unusual for the Benedicks of productions past who often resort to snideness and arrogance to portray the character. The pair are supported by a fantastic cast, who perform in lively synchronicity with one another. Madeleine Mason made for a sweet Hero, the cool hippy vibe of the Friar played by Hunter Perske added another dimension to this enjoyable production, and everyone equally jumped in for solid performances and fun. May Jasper and Jonathan Peck were a satisfyingly slapstick pair as Dogberry and Verges, and Khisraw Jones-Shukoor was the definition of disco-sleaze as Don Pedro.

The musical element of this MSC performance was not the strongest, even where it definitely added to the comedy. Musical director Ben Adams, who directed an astonishingly fun and talented a cappella group in The Comedy of Errors in March this year, couldn’t quite get the performers to hit that mark this time with the evident exceptions of the delightful Nicola Bowman (Margaret) and Motta. The enthusiasm was there, but the quality of the musical talent did not match the excellent quality of the acting on this occasion.

A real highlight is Rhiannon Irving’s imaginative costume design, which once again adds a great deal to the delight of the performance. The choice of elegant white was utterly appropriate for the outdoor setting in summer, special mention must be made of the fascinating fascinators fashioned from CD’s, cassette tapes, and heat-affected records, and the consideration that went into Don Pedro’s flashing headgear was noted and greatly appreciated.

Despite the rain I really enjoyed myself, and have no doubt MSC’s future productions will continue to deliver.

You can catch MSC’s Much Ado About Nothing in the beautiful rose garden every weekend of December leading up to Christmas, 2pm and 7pm. For tickets visit: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/much-ado-about-nothing-by-melbourne-shakespeare-company-tickets-39610284427

Image by Burke Photography

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Melbourne Shakespeare Company Presents THE COMEDY OF ERRORS

Faultless farce

By Leeor Adar

Shakespeare is reimagined in this marvellously funny production of the Melbourne Shakespeare Company. No one left Brunswick’s Siteworks where the production was held without having cackled with joy.

The Comedy of Errors.jpg

Shakespeare’s comedies are at times something to be endured with gritted smiles at out-dated jokes that haven’t been reined in for their times, but director Jennifer Sarah Dean and assistant director Paul Robertson have masterfully done justice to the work.

The production follows the usual case of mistaken identity of two long-lost twin brothers (Nathaniel Schneider and Jonathan Peck) and their forlorn father (Hunter Perske). Throw in two tumbling manservants (Nicola Bowman and Madeleine Stewart), sisters of differing temperament (Jaqueline Whiting and Lelda Kapsis), a courtesan (Annabelle Tudor), and a magician-esque doctor (Bridget Sweeney), and you have a comedy of seismic proportions.

I rarely get the chance to commend a production for all its elements, but The Comedy of Errors is perfection. The cast delivered with humour and panache in such synchronicity that their talent coupled with the direction of the performance provided an unprecedented professionalism (other companies should take note). Costuming by Rhiannon Irving was unique, colourful and striking. Each cast member donned a wig, which appeared to be put together by some seriously talented arts-and-craft person. A special mention must be made to the costuming of the a capella group (Andrew Isles, Ryan Smedley, Mitch Ralston and Patrick Hill), who sported brightly-coloured stripes and matching beards and lipstick. Irving’s creation was so imaginative and charming, the entrance of each character brought more marvels to admire.

Musical director Ben Adams concocted a mix of delightful old and new-school tunes for the a capella group to perform at opportune moments of the show. At times our quartet would enter from an unsuspecting part of the outdoor setting with a flourish and in unison, that would send the audience into fits of laughter. It was a modern touch that provided plenty of entertainment throughout the show. Further, the choice and use of Siteworks’ outdoor space from varying entrances, exits and positions made for an excellent and surprising use of space. The cast of characters had full use of the performance arena, and as an audience, we would shift our heads in wonder at all the happenings around us.

Overall, I am absolutely thrilled with the choices made in this production at every level. I would happily sit through the performance again and cart out every person I know in what would surely be a lively and enjoyable night.

The Comedy of Errors was performed March 25 – April 2, 2017. For upcoming productions, visit https://www.melbourneshakespeare.com/

REVIEW: The Owl and the Cat Presents RIOT!

Enthralling and confronting

By Christine Young

Riot! by Thomas Ian Doyle is a brave and bold new play offering a fly-on-the-wall’s peek into 32-year old Jim’s disillusioned existence. Jim (Johnathan Peck) is having an existential crisis whose cause is unknown until near the end of the play. It won’t be revealed in this review but this bombshell is a sudden awakening to Jim’s state of despair. Even so, the revelation doesn’t absolve Jim of responsibility for his trail of chaos.

RIOT!

Peck portrays the disaffected Jim capably with close attention to the character’s physical and mental ups and downs. At the start, Johnathan seemed to have some opening night jitters but soon relaxed and grew more at ease as the play went on. In a small space, such as The Owl and Cat Theatre, the audience can see and hear every detail. This is a challenge to which the cast rises overall. For me, Gareth Trew as Gavin gave the best performance of the night. Riot! is typically naturalistic theatre and Trew understands the nuances of performing in a play depicting gritty realism.

The intimate theatre seats 32 people and the performance takes place on a stage that is around the size of a two-bedroom flat’s loungeroom. Action alternates between Jim’s flat; a café; his ex-partner’s house; and his manager’s office at Burger Palace. Scene and set changes are simple and effective. The play is so captivating that the transition between these locations is not too noticeable. It’s also because the theatre company and director Gabrielle Savrone make good use of the available space with only minor prop changes between scenes.

The other main effect of being in this small space is that the audience is directly sticky-beaking into Jim’s private life. And the sex scenes occur right at the front of the stage. This reviewer was seated in the last row so there was enough distance not to be completely taken aback. If you’re particularly uncomfortable with nudity and sex scenes, this is not the play for you. The sex isn’t out of place or frequent but you need to know what you’re in for. Likewise, you may not like this play if you’re homophobic but maybe that’s all the more reason to see it.

Venue: The Owl and Cat Theatre, 34 Swan St, Richmond
Date: Until 14 June, 2015
Time: Mon-Sat, 7pm and Sat 2pm
Tickets: $25/$20/$15
Booking: www.owlandcat.com.au/

WARNING: Contains adult content, nudity, sex scenes and drug references.

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS

An utter delight

By Caitlin McGrane

It’s not often one sees a play (or a film, or a TV show) where a straight white man is considered tokenistic: Jumpers for Goalposts gives us that and so much more. Director Tom Healey expertly presents Tom Wells’ sharp, sensitive and uproariously funny script. It tells the story of a five-a-side gay, lesbian and transgender football tournament in Hull as one team, the Barely Athletic, attempt to win/come second/come third/have a team at all.

The team consists of Beardy (Ray Chong Nee), Viv (Kate Cole), Danny (Johnathan Peck), Luke (Rory Kelly) and Joe (Paul Denny). The development and story arc of each character is equal parts witty and poignant. Each performer steps up to and meets the mark with buckets of humour, despite the heaviness of the themes.

2014 Jumpers for goalposts It’s extraordinarily rare that HIV, death and sexuality can be dealt with so clearly without anyone really uttering any of those words. In addition, the diversity on stage is a marked change from the endless parade of straight white male narratives to which we are all so accustomed; Beardy got all the best lines and Joe was almost relegated to the sidelines (puns intended).

The set and costumes designed by Jacob Battista were fantastic – the locker room in which the entire play takes place really belonged on a dodgy estate in England’s northeast. Lighting designed by Clare Springett strategically washed out the stage and gave the performers the sickly fluorescent sheen of a team worn out. Healey’s directorial vision and the efforts of stage manager Rebekah Gibbs are definitely something to write home about as the whole show (some slightly dodgy pronunciation aside) hung together flawlessly . This is a thoroughly enjoyable and truly romantic production: I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Jumpers for Goalposts is now showing at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre on Chapel St in St Kilda until 20 December. Tickets available at: http://redstitch.net/gallery/jumpers-for-goalposts/.

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents GLORY DAZED

Tense, difficult, wonderful drama

By Margaret Wieringa

The house lights have been brought down slowly. The audience remains in the quiet and dark for a long moment before the lights snap on and three actors stand, staring off stage: inert, but not quite frozen. Then banging and shouting from offstage, fear flashes on their faces, and the tension of the next hour or so is set.

2014 REDSTITCH

Premiering in Australia after winning awards as a radio drama and during its season at the Edinburgh Festival, Glory Dazed by Cat Jones is the story of a soldier returned from serving in Afghanistan who cannot settle back into life in Northern England.

It is Andre De Vanny as ex-soldier Ray who carries this performance, capturing all of the anger, fear and vulnerability of a displaced young man who feels hard-done by his circumstances – but demands to be acknowledged. It is a familiar character, the type of man who you may see in a pub or stumbling down the street and you know to avoid because his emotions are expressed through aggression and derision. In the tiny theatre at Red Stitch, it is impossible to escape, and De Vanny made this a wonderfully difficult play to watch.

While Ray is a man I don’t want to encounter, it is the other characters that I empathise with, trapped with this unpredictable time-bomb. Jonathan Peck captures the vulnerability of Simon who is no physical match for Ray, yet needs to find a way to stand up to him. Then there is Leanne, played by Laura Jane Turner, the young staff member who is naïve enough to flirt with the handsome, charming Ray and be taken into his games even when his darker side is revealed. And then Carla. Oh, Carla. Emily Goddard broke my heart as the ex-wife who needs to be free from this animal, yet can see the broken man beneath the bravado.

It was as much the space and the silences that made this performance: director Greg Carroll let the story unfold slowly, with all the pain that this involved. Sometimes, theatre hurts.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East
Season: 23 July – 23 August
Tickets: $20-$39
Bookings: 9533 8083 or boxoffice@redstitch.net