Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble at Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre

Main Image: Silvan Rus and Rebecca Murphy – Benjamin Prindable Photography

Perhaps the most-produced and certainly (in this theatre-goer’s humble opinion) the most accessible of Shakespeare’s comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the latest from the Brisbane-based QSE under the artistic direction of Rob Pensalfini. Rob has also directed and composed the original music for this production but, according to a declaration in a Q&A post-show session he almost didn’t do either.

When the idea first came up at a company meeting, he said he’d rather ‘gouge his eyes out with a spoon.’ The Romantic 19th century fairy ‘sheen’ of most productions that he’d seen or been involved with just hadn’t clicked.  With this production, Rob took up the theme of ‘discord in the land of shadows.’  I’m pleased to report he’s got both eyes still and that his brushed-up Dream is fresh and great fun.

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Matt Gaffney, Laura McKenna, Colin Smith, Brandon Dowery

It’s high-energy with action that never stops till that final ‘Curtain’ – spot on! Some of the ensemble play multiple roles and join in the offstage band that accompanies the action. With choreography and movement by Zoe Tuffin this dream is physical and dance-like helping, as does the music, to manifest the differing tempo-rhythms of the play’s worlds.

The twelve-strong ensemble trip the light fantastic, cavorting, frisking and frolicking their way through the faerie kingdom of Oberon (Zac Kelty) and Titania (Ruby Drewery). Mr Kelty and Ms Drewery double as often happens in productions of this play with Duke Theseus and his Amazon Queen bride-to-be Hippolyta. They are joined by Louise Brehmer as a spring-heeled Puck, Brandon Dowery (in an impressive first showing for QSE)Matt Gaffney, Sam Jeboult, and Laura McKenna as assorted goblins, fairies and mechanicals.  Colin Smith gets to wear the asses’ head as a robust Nick Bottom, and Nick James, Silvan Rus, Rebecca Murphy, and Johancee Theron battle it out – athletically and delightfully – as the quartet of lovers and, of course, end up happily ever. Now, you must know the story, so don’t look for a plot summary. If it’s not familiar to you, go and read it here but, better still, get along to the Roma Street Parklands and see for yourself. Continue reading Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble at Roma Street Parklands Amphitheatre

Review: Frankenstein – Fractal Theatre at Brisbane Arts Theatre

Images: Geoff Squires

Frankenstein, written at the start of the 19th century, has taken deep root in our culture. It’s a sprawling, gothic-romantic novel, considered by some to be the first science-fiction story. In a way it sits at the door of contemporary literature and points the way to the genres we now take for granted.

It’s a challenging novel to read, and its cinematic and theatrical spin-offs are legion as artists across the decades, fascinated by its subject matter, have attempted to set their own stamp upon it. Millions of words and perhaps as many hours have been devoted to this book, written by the 19 year old Mary Shelley during one rainy summer holiday in Geneva, and in response to a competition amongst her friends, including Byron and her husband to be, Percy Shelley, to see who could write the best horror story. Mary won that bet.

The latest to attempt to tame the beast is independent Fractal Theatre’s adaptation and production for the stage at Brisbane Arts Theatre. No matter the subject they tackle you know you are going to be provoked by Fractal. Their work doesn’t shy away from the intellectually difficult or the theatrically ambitious and Brenna Lee Cooney’s adaptation and direction of Frankenstein is no exception.

Continue reading Review: Frankenstein – Fractal Theatre at Brisbane Arts Theatre