Tag: May Jasper

REVIEW: The Taming of the Shrew

This is as accessible and fun as Shakespeare has ever been

By Sebastian Purcell

If all Shakespeare was as accessible, fun and brilliantly acted as this production of The Taming of the Shrew, schools would have no trouble getting any of his texts into children’s hands. 

The Melbourne Shakespeare Company has put together a sublime ensemble that not only nails the Shakespearean tongues at incredible pace and annunciation (even more impressive outside in the elements), but also the interjection of modern references, which makes the play feel current and relatable. 

The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Jennifer Sarah Dean, questions the essence of the feminine and masculine, power and control, truth and deceit. Each show the main characters roles are chosen by the audience, often leading to gender reversal which is poetically reflected in the production’s setting in the St Kilda’s Botanical Gardens, characters coming from Gardenvale, Elsternwick and surrounding suburbs.  

In essence the main plot is about the courtship of Petruchia (played by Emma Jevons on the day) and Katherino (John Vizcay-Wilson) the ill-mannered shrew. Petruchia takes on a bet to tame and wed Katherino in order for the younger, fairer Bianco (Saxon Gray) to marry. Bianco cannot marry until the elder sibling Katherino is wed, but Bianco already has two suitors (May Jasper and Charlotte Righetti) and is courted by another (Sarah Krndija). To add intrigue, the bet is placed as the various suitors vie for Bianco’s love, and supporting the suitor’s in their quest are their dutiful sidekicks (Emma Austin and Yash Fernando) who attempt to disguise their true intentions throughout the 90 minute performance. 

While everyone provides an outstanding performance, I think a special mention is warranted for Liliana Dalton (Trania) whom often steals the scenes and delivers the wonderful line “how now brown cow”, demonstrating a pure enunciation of the English language. Emma Jevons as the Tame and John Vizcay-Wilson as the Shrew have an authentic energy and have the most physically demanding roles. Their courtship scene is an absolute highlight of physical acting prowess. Paul Morris (Sly) on the guitar is fantastic, so much so It even felt like Tones and I’s Dance Monkey belongs in Shakespeare. 

Benjamin Almon Colley provides a masterclass in musical direction; who would have thought Kelly Clarkson’s My life would suck without you would sum up the play so gloriously? The choreography (John Reed) is tight and the use of the gardens and gazebo, as well as the set dressing (Hayley James) makes you feel part of the show. In addition, the recycled products and the digital program show the environmentally conscious nature of the Melbourne Shakespeare Company. The costuming (Rhiannon Irving) is consistent with the traditional characterisations but with the added benefit of adding a character sash to each actor making the play easy to follow and acting as clever props throughout.

This is a laugh out loud production, a comedy in all its glory. There’s so much physicality from the performers and it’s a joy to see them enjoying themselves and each other’s brilliant performances. Bring a picnic and a jumper for Melbourne’s cool evenings. This is as accessible and fun as Shakespeare has ever been. A triumphant production. 

The Taming of the Shrew plays from Saturday 7 – Sunday 22 December 2019

The Rose Garden, St. Kilda Botanical Gardens. 

Tickets are available at http://www.melbourneshakespeare.com

Photography courtesy of Jack Dixon-Gunn

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

REVIEW: Snafu Theatre Present TEN MONTHS IN A COLD TOWN

Spy thriller hits the bullseye

By Myron My

SNAFU Theatre is back with their eighth production Ten Months in a Cold Town. In it, a man (James Gand-Hunt) enters a woman’s (Samantha Hill) house. They are both spies and he is there to receive some important documents. We watch as they wait for a fax transmission to come through before the documents are handed over…

Who is telling the truth? Is everyone who they say they are?

Ten Months In a Cold Town

Sam Wilson and May Jasper have written an intriguing and captivating script. I particularly enjoyed watching as scenes went from comedic and light-hearted to dark and serious quite fluidly and unexpectedly. The further we progress with the play, the more extreme the pendulum swung between these two contrasting genres and moods. It’s not until we are introduced to Irina (Cazz Bainbridge) that the story comes full-circle.

The scenes in Russian are intriguing to watch as you are left to your own devices to translate what is being said. Despite the fact I speak no Russian, the actors seemed quite comfortable with the language and apparently spoke fluently, and should be congratulated on their efforts.

This is predominantly a character piece rather than a narrative piece and with Gand-Hunt and Hill on stage from beginning to end, there is a lot riding on them being able to pull these characters off and they do exceptionally well.

There are touches of Waiting for Godot during the lighter moments in which the actors both appeared most comfortable, as the two spies discuss their time at “spy school” and their experience of marriage. However, during the more intense moments, I felt there could have been a push to explore their darker natures through emotions and reactions.

Overall, Ten Months in a Cold Town has a strong script and strong performances. It doesn’t answer all your questions but this is not a bad thing as it’s nice to not always be spoon-fed a story, and my friend and I spent some time discussing what we believe had happened – and was going to happen…

Venue: Industrial School, Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford

Season: Until 4 May | Thurs-Sat 7:30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings:http://www.trybooking.com/CPIG

Review: NOT A VERY GOOD STORY by May Jasper

A confession, a sacrifice and an unexpected love story

By Myron My

Let’s get to the point: Not A Very Good Story is not a very ‘good’ story. Not A Very Good Story does not have a strong, confident protagonist. Not A Very Good Story is not told well. But it is for all of these reasons that Not A Very Good Story is in fact, a very good production.

Not a Very Good Story

Our protagonist, Stephanie (May Jasper), works in a call centre and she has a story to tell us. It’s not a nice story either. It’s about cancer. And what happens when a group of people all in the one call centre suddenly get it.

Jasper – who also wrote Not A Very Good Story – is a joy to watch as she plays the awkward and nervous Stephanie who umms and aahs her way through her retelling. This disposition ultimately makes her even more real, authentic and vulnerable to us. Jasper herself is very comfortable on stage and is clearly in her element, talking intimately to the audience for just over an hour without having the safety net of any cues for dialogue.

Even though this is a one-woman play, there are roughly twelve characters that Jasper portrays. Some of these we meet briefly, whilst others are fleshed out more, such as Jen the romantic interest. Jasper takes on some good mannerisms and inflections to differentiate her characters, including changing her voice and posture which helps the audience keep track of who said what when. I did feel however, that a bit more distinction was needed between some of Stephanie’s six co-workers, as there were some slight moments of confusion.

I have seen quite a few one-person performances recently and this one would have to be one of my highlights. Despite the tough subject, this is also a play about a woman sacrificing the woman she loves to save the woman she loves, which makes Not A Very Good Story a great story to experience.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: Until 10 February | Wed, Fri, Sun 6:30pm. Thu, Sat 8:30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au