Tag: Madi Lee

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: The Butterfly Club Presents THE LAST FIVE QUEERS

Robert Brown re-imagining is all about the music

By Myron My

More and more you hear people saying, “It’s a small world”. Thanks to modern living, our lives are becoming intertwined in ever-more varied and surprising ways. In The Last Five Queers, book by Adam Noviello & Madi Lee and music by Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, we meet five individuals who are all connected with each other in some way. In this song-cycle cabaret, their relationships are all pushed to the forefront as they tackle the high and lows of being in love with someone and trusting another enough to give yourself over to them.

The Last Five Queers

There were some incredibly strong musical performances in the show. Keagan Vaskess as the woman in love with her best friend was exceptional with her songs. What is even more impressive is the confidence and emotion on display, considering she was only brought in five days ago after the original performer became unwell. The scenes between gay couple, Henry Brett and Jack O’Riley were just as accomplished however. The belting out of memorable numbers ensured their duets and solos were by far the highlights of the show. Rounding out the cast were Tim Carney and Lee who, despite their strong effort, were unable to affect me as much as Vaskess, Brett and O’Riley did. Their projection was not as successful, and for me their vocal range didn’t reach the breadth of the other three

Playing his own arrangements of Brown’s music was musical director Barnaby Reiter. I’ve seen Reiter perform in a number of cabaret shows over the years and it’s always a pleasant surprise when he appears on stage. He really is one of Melbourne’s great musical talents, playing with finesse and skill and really creating moments on stage for not only the audience to experience, but also for the performers to occupy.

While the cast shone in their singing, the acting is where some cracks surfaced. There were several awkward vignettes between songs, due to dialogue that sounded trite and acting that felt unnatural. There was not much authenticity in the portrayals and it felt everyone was just going through the motions: there was the lack of intensity from a spontaneous kiss, the lack of chemistry between loving couples and the lack of familiarity between siblings and friends.

I could have happily enjoyed Vaskess, Brett and O’Riley singing all night, and listened to Reiter play the piano. However, I was there to see The Last Five Queers, and as a whole, the show required some fine-tuning. The writing needed to be more genuine and organic and the acting side of this cabaret needed stronger direction. It’s still an enjoyable show but I will remember The Last Five Queers as more of a quick fling than a long-lasting relationship.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne

Season: Until 9 August | Tue-Sat 8:30pm, Sunday 8:00pm

Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: The Butterfly Club