Review: Hamlet in the box ‘Ugly-beautiful’ La Boite Theatre

Originally published 15 February, 2010

Toby Schmitz as Hamlet Photo: Amelia Dowd

Let it be known, nothing sums this show up better than its poster: a soaking wet Toby Schmitz (very Trainspotting) arms raised as he pulls his hair back … with just a fine whisper of pubic hair on show. Whilst grabbing my tickets from the box office to see this not-so-subtle erotic piece of marketing on sale for three dollars a throw, I could understand how (if I were a Year 11 school girl) I’d have begun hungrily digging through the bottom of my school bag, gathering change from my tuckshop visit in order to pick up a copy. You get this feeling throughout the show: it’s sexy, cutting, and brutal, and it’s made for the 21st Century Twilight obsessed kid.

Ophelia is seen texting on her mobile phone, the Gravedigger grabs a quick digital pic with Hamlet, letters and messages are sent over an odd Star Trek-like video system. In addition (and I promise I’ll get to the finer points of the actual performances in a moment) it would be hard to find a group of more beautiful actors without resorting to Photoshop. Berthold has assembled a sexy cast, and he knows it. Skin (and on one occasion, full frontal nudity) is shown without hesitation, often in pairing with the four or five rock-opera style contemporary songs.

Hamlet’s play, in particular, makes you feel like you’re at some kind of incestuous drunk dance concert, and I’m not totally certain that this isn’t exactly how Shakespeare would have liked it.

You can’t begin to truly look at the show without placing it in its larger context. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet in the box ‘Ugly-beautiful’ La Boite Theatre”

The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (Review): Fractal Theatre

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”

Gripped by the actor’s power: Eugene Gilfedder (Interview 10)

Waiting for Godot (QTC) with Bryan Probets
Grimm Tales (QTC)

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)”

The Secret Love Life of Ophelia: Fractal Theatre at !Metro Arts Studio

Further details from Fractal Theatre’s Facebook Page

AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE of Steven Berkoff’s THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA

With Mary Eggleston as Ophelia – and Eugene Gilfedder as Hamlet.
Directed by Brenna Lee-Cooney

WARNING: EXPLICIT EROTIC POETRY – 16+

PERFORMANCE TIMES: MONDAY – SATURDAY 7.30PM; SUNDAY – 5PM

OPENING NIGHT 6TH AUGUST
9 performances only:  7TH – 15TH AUGUST.

Review: The Chairs – La Boite Theatre

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.

So here’s what I saw. Continue reading “Review: The Chairs – La Boite Theatre”