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)
Brenna-Lee Cooney is telling me about the plans she has for the revivified Fractal Theatre, now based in Ipswich. After some years of child-raising, teaching, a self-imposed break from theatre-creation and urged, she tells me with a snort, by her now grown-up children to ‘do something with your life,’ she’s energised and ready to tackle afresh one of the most challenging tasks any theatre maker has – that of producing and directing (and choreographing) a show from the ground up. I sense Brenna-Lee is not one to do things at half-pace and, as she speaks, my pen rushes to keep up.
Like most who’ve not done a day’s study of physics in their lives I’m interested to hear why ‘Fractal’ for a theatre company? I do know a bit about the relationship between physics and fractals, having read Gary Zukav’s wonderful ‘The Dancing Wu Li Masters‘ many years ago; it’s still one of my favourite science books. But why ‘fractal’ for theatre, I ask? It turns out that it’s all about patterns. ‘I’m interested in the ever-repeating patterns of nature and history and pattern repetition in movement and music and, of course, in the poetry of text,’ Brenna-Lee explains.
She and Fractal have always been interested in creating theatre that blurs the boundaries between the forms, and Steven Berkoff‘s The Secret Love Life of Ophelia, which opens next month in its Australian premiere, continues the tradition begun when Fractal started in 1989. At the time Brenna-Lee was studying at UQ; ‘Richard Fotheringham, then my lecturer, threw me the keys to the Avalon (theatre) and told me to do something over the Christmas break,’ she recalls. She did, and a production of Lysistrata emerged. A series of productions – some epic, some small, and all innovative followed over the years. There were classical Greek works, including a Butoh-inspired Oresteia led by Lynn Bradley, Ibsen’s Peer Gynt supported by the Norwegian Community, Wedekind’s Lulu, all with enormous casts. Continue reading Fractal Theatre is Back! Brenna-Lee Cooney (Interview 9)