Tag: Karl Sarsfield

Melbourne Shakespeare Company’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Thoroughly won over

By Caitlin McGrane

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the first Shakespeare play I studied at school, and thus while it holds a special place in my heart, certain scenes are forever etched into my memory. As the Melbourne Shakespeare Company’s production got underway, I was sceptical whether the blend of contemporary music and iambic pentameter were going to be a match. I needn’t have worried, as the performance rolled steadily onwards, and the actors became more comfortable in their roles, I felt completely at ease with the way the story was being told; the audience was in safe hands.

Melbourne Shakespeare Company's A Midsummer Night's Dream.jpg

For the uninitiated, the play entwines the stories of two groups; the Lovers: Hermia (Christina Forrest) and Lysander (Khrisraw Jones-Shukoor), Helena (Alisha Eddy) and Demetrius (Charlie Sturgeon); and the Players: Bottom (Johnathan Peck), Flute (John Reed), Quince (Ben Frank Adams), Snout (Ben Noel Adams), Snug (Nick Murphy) and Starvelling (Myles Tankle).

Hermia and Lysander are forbidden to wed, so flee Athens, hotly pursued by Helena and Demetrius. While fleeing they wander into a forest bewitched by faerie King Oberon (Steven Fleiner) and Queen Titania (Angela Lumicisi), with help from mischievous Puck (Paul Robertson). There’s magic potions, asses heads and lots of shouting about love as the magical beings play with the lives of the mere mortals, meanwhile the players are rehearsing the play Pyramus and Thisbe to perform at Theseus (Karl Sarsfield) and Hippolyta’s (Madi Lee) wedding. Confused yet? You should be.

As an ensemble the cast was great, I was initially wary of the players’ boisterous gallivanting and gadding about, but by the end of their first proper scene together I couldn’t wait for them to reappear. I was particular impressed by Johnathan Peck’s unique and profoundly physical take on Bottom as a sympathetic but emotionally fragile simpleton, and I need a GIF of him performing the death scene from Pyramus and Thisbe to play on a loop at my funeral; I laughed so much I cried and am still laughing thinking about it now. Christina Forrest’s Hermia was similarly energetic and gravity-defying, which helped prevent the inherently dialogue-heavy play from getting bogged down in its own trickery.

I enjoyed the silly playfulness that director Jennifer Sarah Dean has brought to the play, although moments of the Pyramus and Thisbe performance would benefit from tightening to avoid relying too heavily on slapstick. Designer Simon Bowland has done an excellent job with costumes and make-up (faeries looked suitably bedazzled), but it did look like Oberon had wandered out on stage in his dressing gown and slippers and didn’t quite match the majesty of Titania – if this was a deliberate move then I’m afraid it was lost on me. Save for a few moments where the play sagged towards the end after all the frenetic activity, it was thoroughly good fun.

Beautifully nestled in Testing Grounds just behind the Arts Centre, City Road and the Southbank apartments provided a peculiarly complementary backdrop for this contemporary adaptation of a true classic.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing at Testing Grounds twice each day on 26 and 27 March 2016. Tickets available from: http://www.testing-grounds.com.au/calendar?view=calendar&month=March-2016

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REVIEW: Moreland Theatre Company Presents THE BACCHAE

Classic Greek tragedy dramatically reimagined

By Michael Olsen

Moreland Theatre Company’s The Bacchae by Euripides concerns the arrival in the city of Thebes of the god Dionysus (in human form), and the inevitable clash that arises between this god of merriment and chaos and the patrician leader of the city, Pentheus. While Dionysus represents the emotional wellspring of life and offers an escape from life’s hardships through drunken revelry on Mt Citharon (which lies outside the city), Pentheus stands for order and control, and this dichotomy is enhanced by having Dionysus in this instance played by a woman (Kate Barford in a challenging role which she pulled off magnificently.)

The Bacchae

Director Sam Browne has taken an updated text of the play (translated by Ian Johnston and adapted by John Kelly and Matt O’Reilly) and has clearly presented the gripping conflict not only between Dionysus and Pentheus, but also the contradictions within Dionysus herself (god of merriment vs avenging god). Whilst the formality of the play distances us somewhat from the characters, the conclusion is devastating and an uneasy catharsis is reached. The heart of the production which Browne handles so well is to present the fatal imbalance that can occur when the masculine and feminine sides of our personality are in conflict, and the horrors that a vengeful god can unleash.

Karl Sarsfield stood out as the commanding and unbending Pentheus, while Angelique Malcolm as his mother, Agave, transfixed with the play’s climactic moment when she slowly realises what she’s done in a moment of utter madness. Special mention should be made of Victoria Haslam‘s costume design for the Bacchae, which helped to energise and bring vivid colour to the production.

After more than 2000 years The Bacchae speaks to us of the results of disobedience, unbending rationality, and the terrors of unbridled passion. Is Dionysus right to take the revenge she takes? Who knows. Euripides seems to be saying for better or worse: “That’s life.”

The Bacchae runs till the 13th of June at 8pm at the Metanoia Theatre at The Mechanics Institute
270 Sydney Road, Brunswick.

Tickets: Book online or cash at the door. For more details go to www.moreland.org.au

Image by Teresa Noble

REVIEW: Bitten By Productions Presents THE LAST SUPPER

Compelling tale of a crime lord and his cohorts

By Myron My

Being a leader is not the easiest thing. Especially when you are a leader of a mob group or crime syndicate and have to determine who is genuinely looking out for your safety and to constantly second-guess in whom you can put your trust. In Bitten By Productions’ The Last Supper, crime lord Dorian is facing these problems. What follows is an evening of truths being spoken, lies and deception being revealed, and an examination of the extremes to which people will go to be a leader and claim power.

The Last Supper

Dorian (Gregory Caine) has invited his most inner circle to a meeting: his “trusted” associates and partners. Those invited include his brother Brody (Karl Sarsfield), Madam President, Claudia (Ashley Tardy), the Head of Intelligence, Novak (Kashmir Sinnamon) and the Chief of Police, Vaughan (Christopher Grant). Once Dorian is finished with his interrogations, this may indeed be the last supper for some of them, as failure to perform their jobs results in death.

Gabriel Bergmoser‘s script has some great moments of tension, especially between Brody and Dorian, and the build-up to the conclusion is quite compelling. Bergmoser’s language is highly descriptive and the scene where Dorian retells the story of the pool of glass is so vivid and feels so real that the visuals created in my mind were highly intense. However, this narrative flashback feature is also the difficulty I had with the structure of The Last Supper: the many conversations about past events referencing at least half a dozen non-present characters. At some points, it felt like we were spending too much time focusing on the past than on the present, and not working with these interesting characters actually on stage.

With The Last Supper being seen as a conclusion to a loose trilogy by Bitten By Productions, I wonder – despite being told it is not necessary – if having seen Below Babylon and Beyond Babylon would have made this narrative easier to follow.

Sarsfield brings lots of emotion and honesty with the nervous Brody, who is eager to break free from the life of crime and be a good husband and father. As the story progresses, this desperation to lead a normal life is handled capably by Sarsfield. Similarly, Sinnamon and Grant do well with their supporting roles, each bringing their respective characters to life quite convincingly.

Despite some extremely powerful monologues, I felt some of Caine’s emotional responses as Dorian did not always feel authentic and his motivations and actions were not always clear or seemed to contradict themselves. Tardy does a great job as Claudia, but unfortunately fails to bring credibility to the character. I feel this is more a casting issue though, as she appeared to be too young for the role.

Less than a year ago, I watched Bergmoser’s Reunion and I saw potential in his writing. The Last Supper is clearly far more ambitious than this previous play, but fortunately there has also been a strong improvement in his skill as a writer. Even with the somewhat confusing and discursive narrative structure, the suspense, and the pay-off for the audience at the end, is worth it.

Venue: My Handlebar, 581 Sydney Rd, Brunswick.

Season: Until 16 May | Wed-Sat 7:30pm

Tickets: $20 Full | $18 Conc

Bookings: www.gabrielbergmoser.com