Iambic pentameter (aka blank verse) is known for being the rhythm that most closely approximates everyday speech in English. Most of us meet it for the first time in the plays of Shakespeare. With its repetitive de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM spring on each line of the verse, despite – or perhaps because it’s closely associated with Shakespeare – IP often gets a bad working over in the hands of inexperienced actors. In a misguided attempt to make it sound more ‘real,’ all the insistence and momentum in the rhythm can get flattened out and choked. Perhaps even more unfortunately, it can be spoken in a kind of reverential ‘poetic’ voice which casts the content and the speaker into some kind of other world divorced from reality. IP is full of traps for the young player.
And now, here’s playwright Steven Berkoff appropriating the old master’s metric verse form for The Secret Love Life of Ophelia, currently playing at !Metro Arts Studio in Brisbane. I started by mentioning IP because one of the real delights of this Fractal Theatre production, directed by Brenna-Lee Cooney, is that the two actors in the production, Eugene Gilfedder (Hamlet) and Mary Eggleston (Ophelia) handle the verse so well; it’s earthy, muscular, lyrical, downright dirty (but in a soft-porn kind of way) often delicate, and always affecting. Neither actor is the slightest bit disarmed by the text, in fact they chew it up and spit it out – as utterly befits this 21st century, retro-Elizabethan, poetic psycho-drama. Phew! Hoorah for them and hoorah for Berkoff; it’s great to hear such tough verse done proud. Continue reading The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (Review): Fractal Theatre
Eugene Gilfedder is lining up for his third Hamlet – the first was as the prince himself in Shakespeare’s version some 20 years or so ago, and this time it’s in the Australian premiere of Steven Berkoff‘s The Secret Love Life of Ophelia for Fractal Theatre, opening on Friday. Earlier this year he appeared to acclaim as the Ghost and Uncle Claudius in La Boite’s production of the play.
After a long regional, national tour last year with The Kursk, Eugene’s now really enjoying what has been a year so far back-to-back with terrific roles. As one of the most respected as well as busiest actor in town, it’s almost as though his career has had a resurgence, though, as he tells me, he has notched up over 150 productions on stage over the years. ‘It’s been extraordinary to last this long,’ he tells me, ‘and to still be performing.’ It all began as a child, when as part of a large family, he found himself organising his siblings and devising performances at home and later at school. ‘From Grade 8 on I just took charge! Acting has been my life.’ Continue reading Gripped by the actor’s power: Eugene Gilfedder (Interview 10)
You could infer that the show must truly be something if it’s memorable weeks later in this age of disposable entertainment. You could infer that I have avoided writing this for as long as I could. You could infer a lot of things. Fact is I was asked to write this because I had seen the show and Greenroom was having difficulty finding time to attend La Boite’s latest production of The Chairs by Eugene Ionesco. So what does that mean?
Firstly, it means I hadn’t intended to put my thoughts forward so they have become fractious and disordered in my head in the weeks since I saw the show. Secondly, it means I am looking at the work with the benefit of hindsight and the handicap of its being most of a month ago. There is much to be said for the school of thought that there are two worlds, things as they are and our ideal versions of them. Finally, it means that I have had quite a few discussions with people about their experiences of the work. As such, I have had to try and find my way back to what I saw and how I felt about it.
I’ll try now.
When it was announced that Brian Lucas would be directing Eugene Gilfedder and Jennifer Flowers in Martin Crimp’s translation of Ionesco’s The Chairs my ears pricked up; there is a lot to like about that sentence. Brian Lucas’ work as a performer, choreographer and dancer is sublime and singular: an idiosyncratic and brilliant mind coupled with a masterful sense of physical performance. Eugene Gilfedder has, in recent years enjoyed a thoroughly deserved resurgence in his work, best described as brilliant and idiosyncratic, and intense. Jennifer Flowers has been a presence in Australian Theatre for decades, recently as tour director on The Year of Magical Thinking and notably in her Helpmann Award nominated turn in Doubt. Martin Crimp is a fine writer – his Attempts On Her Life is a truly great play, and Ionesco is responsible for some of the most memorable plays of the Absurdist movement. So from the outset there was a lot of excitement and anticipation.
Actually, it wasn’t just me, everyone I spoke to beforehand was the same. Maybe that’s why I have waited to write this, taking time to remove the play I wanted from the play I got – there is nothing worse than a review that spends its time talking about what should have been done.