Monday, October 15, 2018

JIRGA



Rated M, 1 hr 18 mins

Screening at Dendy, Canberra

Review © Jane Freebury

3.5 Stars

Obstacles that directors face on film shoots range from the trivial to the legion that sink projects altogether. They very nearly sank Benjamin Gilmour’s project when he arrived in Pakistan with lead actor Sam Smith only to discover that permission to film was withdrawn and funding for cinematographer and crew had evaporated.

Gilmour could have at this point declared the difficulties 'insurmountable' but instead acted swiftly and decisively. He bought a second-hand camera and crossed the border to do the shoot in Afghanistan, which was, after all, where his narrative was set. Pakistan was only meant to be a stand-in.

This is some backstory. It points to a rivetting tale beyond the frame, the stuff of difficult shoots that have great documentaries made like Hearts of Darkness and Lost in La Mancha. However, the long list of people Gilmour thanks in the credits also points to a big collaborative behind-the-scenes effort, crowd-sourced funding and a degree of luck.

Set in the streets of Kabul and in remote villages and caves in the mountain regions, Jirga tells of the journey made by Mike Wheeler (Smith), a former Australian solider, to find the family of a man he shot by mistake during a raid three years earlier. The simplicity of this journey of the soul, a return to the heart of darkness of Mike’s military career, suits it well.

After a frenetic opening flashback in lurid green night vision accompanied by the rat-a-tat-tat of small arms fire, the pace slows as Mike finds his way around in Afghanistan, second time round. His journey takes on more insidious dangers as he negotiates the markets and cafes to get transport from Kabul to Kandahar. No, no, and no, his hosts and helpers say, the province is crawling with Taliban. It’s just too dangerous.

 Needless to say, like the filmmaker, Mike won’t take ‘no’ for an answer either and finally manages to persuade his taxi driver to drive him beyond , Bamyan, the first destination agreed to.Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad, who was the father in Gilmour’s first film Son of a Lion (2007), makes a very personable taxi driver.

It isn’t long before Mike becomes a guest of a group of Taliban (played by former Taliban). Instead of killing him or taking the wads of useless dollars he has brought with him, they deliver him to the very village he has been looking for. There he puts his fate in the hands of the Afghan court of tribal elders, the jirga.

However, it is not the elders who have the last word. They leave it to the most directly affected to decide Mike’s fate. Not a thoroughly convincing outcome, however, but where else could it conceivably be taken? What is remarkable in Jirga is the journey through the magnificent landscapes of Afghanistan, and the connections that are made along the way.

In some scenes, the camera goes extremely wide as Mike’s taxi beetles past brooding, hulking mountain ranges that look older than time. In other scenes, he is in two-shot with his redoubtable driver, tapping tin bowls and plucking guitar strings as they make music for each other, because it is the only language that they share.

The wonderful score by AJ True is another pleasure, as are the surprises.  Such as another contribution, that comes from Smith, who plays a composition of his own to his driver on an old guitar he bought along the way. When words can’t be found, music says it all.
 
Jane's reviews are also published on her blog and broadcast on ArtSound FM 92.7 Canberra

An Enemy of the People by Melissa Reeves after Henrik Ibsen


An Enemy of the People by Melissa Reeves after Henrik Ibsen.  Belvoir at Belvoir St Upstairs, Sydney, October 11 – November 4, 2018.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 13

Director – Anne-Louise Sarks; Set & Costume Designer – Mel Page; Lighting Designer – Verity Hampson; Composer & Sound Designer – Stefan Gregory

Cast:
Morton Kiil – Peter Carroll; Randine – Catherine Davies; Peter Stockman – Leon Ford; Hovstad – Steve Le Marquand; Aslaksen – Kenneth Moraleda; Dr Stockman – Kate Mulvaney; Petra – Nikita Waldron; Billing – Charles Wu
Photos: Brett Boardman
Nikita Waldron, Leon Ford, Kate Mulvaney
as Petra, her uncle Peter and her mother Dr Stockman
An Enemy of the People, Belvoir 2018


Belvoir may be a “Major” in the Australian theatre scene – and therefore we can expect productions of plays from the past in the standard canon – but when I leave the theatre feeling excited and even quite shivery about our future, I know I’ve seen an old play do for us now what Henrik Ibsen did in Norway in 1882: blow the whistle!

“By Melissa Reeves after Henrik Ibsen” means what it says.  She has taken his play by the throat and shaken out of it all the changes in society that have evolved since – and very much because of – what he started.  Naturalism on stage offended and frightened audiences and officials in his day.  Reeves, with her “gang of four…with Anne-Louise Sarks, Louise Gough, and Kate Mulvaney”, does not offend me – but certainly frightens me.

Ibsen himself, of course, was already telling men off for how they treated women in A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler and Ghosts, while in An Enemy of the People he tells the men off for allowing themselves to be corrupted by fear of losing money when they should always stand up for the truth despite the consequences.

Here’s the relevant ending in the Wikipedia account:
Dr. Stockmann's father-in-law, Morton Kiil, arrives to say that he has just bought shares in the Baths with the money intended for the legacy that Dr. Stockmann's wife will inherit. He expects that this fact will cause his son-in-law to stop his crusade in order to insure that his wife and children will have a secure future. Dr. Stockmann rebuffs Kiil's threat and also ignores Peter's advice to leave town for a few months. Dr. Stockmann's wife tells him she is afraid that the people will drive him out of town. But Dr. Stockmann replies that he intends to stay and make them understand "that considerations of expediency and justice turn morality and justice upside down." He ends by proclaiming himself the strongest man in town because he is able to stand alone.

But the Gang of Four Women at Belvoir know that two issues are front and centre today: women being silenced, and the power of social media.  So their Dr Stockman is the widow of Ibsen’s Stockmann; Morton Kiil is her father-in-law; Peter, the mayor, is her brother; and the legacy money is for her daughter Petra.

In their ending Dr Stockman, like Ibsen’s Stockmann, goes over-the-top at the public meeting (except that they both spoke nothing but the truth) in a magnificent performance by Kate Mulvaney.  Her windows are not broken like his had been, but are scrawled with troll language: ‘bitch’ or was it 'witch' (as in ‘ditch the witch’ from Julia Gillard days) is the operative word.

The mother nearly gives in to her father-in-law’s threat to impoverish his granddaughter, but Petra, who has already been dismissed from her casual teaching job, tells Dr Stockman it’s too late – she has already posted everything on social media.  The truth is now out there.  Petra will stand alone.



Steve Le Marquand
as newspaper proprieter Hovstad, seeing his future as a politician
in the polluted waters of the health spa


At the public meeting

After the public meeting
Two moods of Dr Stockman: Kate Mulvaney




Catherine Davies as Dr Stockman's cleaner








The production of An Enemy of the People is brilliant.  Leon Ford is an awful mayor and brother, even raising in public, stories about his sister’s mental health after her husband died.  Peter Carroll’s Morton Kiil thinks the pollution story is fake news and remains frustratingly obtuse until the very end.  Nikita Waldron produces such a sensible and aware Petra for us to sincerely hope she will be able to stand the forces that we know will be brought to bear.  And Kate Mulvaney, in a fascinating kind of way, almost brought the strength of her Richard III to mind as she handled the most risky part of the show with such guts.

As a family story, there was more laughter from us watching than in ‘straight’ versions of An Enemy of the People, such as Hayes Gordon’s intense drama at Ensemble Theatre which I saw in 1969.  But even Hayes didn’t dare do what Anne-Louise has done – turn the whole theatre into the public meeting, with handouts to us all of pictures of the terrible skin disease effects of the heavy metal pollution of the spa baths.

This is brave theatre indeed, absolutely powerful in the Belvoir Upstairs shape.  The focus is concentrated on Dr Stockman on her microphone trying to manage the mayor who demands control, the small businessman with nothing but immediate profit on his mind, the newspaper proprieter with an aim to take over the town council, the aggressive reporter with his own agenda, interrupting from all points among the audience, marching down to take control and destroy the woman’s right to speak.

I felt like jumping up to take part myself, and kept thinking surely someone else will?  As a theatre critic, I was hamstrung, of course.  How could I become involved  when I am supposed to remain objective?  And why didn’t anyone else jump in?  I suppose because they were conscious they were an audience and were not meant to perform.

But that was the clever part in taking such a risk on the actors’ part.  The key point Dr Stockman makes is that even though we know the truth, and have the evidence in our very hands, what will we do?  Keep mum and do nothing!

And what an indictment of middle class morality among middle class audiences – even those who go to Belvoir.

I’m sure Kate Mulvaney will cope if someone joins in one night.  I hope they do, on her side.  I might still leave the theatre shivering, but more with the excitement of real hope for the future (even if I wonder how the play will end if the audience are at loggerheads with each other as the lights dim at the end of what was Act IV in Ibsen’s original, with the ending I quoted above still to go.)

Please don’t miss An Enemy of the People by Melissa Reeves after Henrik Ibsen at Belvoir.  You have only three weeks to go.


ADDENDUM

http://www.dailycal.org/2018/10/14/an-enemy-of-the-people/

The Daily Californian reports:

“An Enemy of the People” was brought to Berkeley by Schaubühne, an innovative theatrical group out of Berlin, Germany.

By Kate Tinney

During the final few scenes of the show, the actors opened the discussion of free speech and the value of democracy to the audience, asking them to contribute and pass around the microphone. One woman spoke of Flint, Michigan, another of the limits of representational democracy. Against each comment, Aslaksen (David Ruland), the newspaper’s printer, pushed back, twisting the facts and gaslighting the audience.

“You are trying to silence him, and we’ve had enough of people like you, so shut up and sit down,” one man said, pointing a finger up at Aslaksen.

“Then you drink the damn water,” another shouted against Aslaksen’s insistence that the water was both clean and fixable.

During the Beijing performance of this show just a month ago, this section of the play prompted shouted insults against the government and was met with a complete shutdown of the show and an end of that piece of the tour. In Berkeley, however, a call for government transparency and revolution was met with snaps and cheers from the audience.

There is something uniquely devastating about a show written hundreds of years ago about the mores of society remaining so relevant across cultures and centuries. “An Enemy of the People” was just such a show. Even across languages, Schaubühne effectively updated the show to make it viscerally relevant to today’s society.










Maggie Stone by Caleb Lewis


Maggie Stone by Caleb Lewis.  Darlinghurst Theatre Company at Eternity Theatre, Sydney, September 30 – October 21, 2018.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 13

Eliza Logan and Thuso Lekwape
as Maggie Stone and Benedict Deng
in the opening scene, Maggie Stone by Caleb Lewis
All Photos: Robert Catto

Director – Sandra Eldridge; Production Designer – Sallyanne Facer; Lighting Designer – Matt Cox; Composer & Sound Designer – David Bergman; Cultural Advisor & Assistant Producer – Moreblessing Maturure; Dialect Coach & Cultural Consultant – Deng Deng

Cast:
Maggie Stone – Eliza Logan; Amath / Doctor – Kate Bookallil; Amath Deng – Branden Christine; Leo Hermes – Alan Dukes; Georgina Spack – Anna Lee; Benedict Deng / Benny Deng – Thuso Lekwape

Branden Christine and Thuso Lekwape
as Amath Deng and her son Benny





Maggie Stone is a series of short scenes about a money lender and the trap into which a refugee family can fall. 

It’s a play about social conscience – first of all to recognise that in Australia there are criminal and semi-criminal elements in our culture which take advantage of vulnerable people.

Then we must also understand that conditions in refugee camps, such as in Kenya in the case of the Deng family, encourage the same kind of money-borrowing and theft as they find here.  Benedict and Amath manage to get out of that situation before the constant threat of being killed happens.  But it happens here.

Maggie has a heart of stone in the first scene where she refuses to lend the cash that Benedict needs immediately to pay off debts.  Only later she realises that Amath and the children are left without a father because of her decision.  We see her finally succeed in rehabilitating Benedict’s son – Benny is actually the result of Amath having been raped in Kenya – and, through her connections from childhood with the dodgy money-lender Leo, Maggie manages to get Amath and her family back on their feet.

Kate Bookallil
as Doctor



The writing is spare, so the story becomes revealed only bit by bit, with scenes separated by sound bites and blackouts – more like film shots than fully developed scenes.  But the 80 minute length is right for the essential message which is the purpose of the play, which fits in well with the Darlinghurst Theatre Company approach:

…each year we invite professional artists to put forward concepts for our company to develop and produce….We fully fund artists’ work including professional performers at award wages and creative fees…and invariably each new show hits our stage with a sense of urgency and immediacy.

Maggie Stone certainly succeeds in doing so.

Eliza Logan, Branden Christine, Anna Lee
 as Maggie Stone, Amath Deng and do-gooder neighbour Georgina Spack
in confrontation scene, Maggie Stone by Caleb Lewis






















“A NIGHT IN PARIS”, Andrew Rumsey and James Huntingford, piano duo. At Wesley Music Centre, October 13. Reviewed by TONY MAGEE

Piano duos of fame almost always seem to share a common gene pool - one thinks immediately of the sisters Labèque, the brothers Kontarsky, father and son Vladimir and Vovka Ashkenazy and father and daughter Emil and Elena Gilels. Go back a little further in time and you find the brothers Rubinstein and the sisters Boulanger. Even further and we arrive at the most famous piano duo of all - Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart.
James Huntingford (L) and Andrew Rumsey (R)
Andrew Rumsey and James Huntingford share a different kind of musical unity and one that works brilliantly. They share the same age, interests, academic institution and the ability to work together in rehearsal and performance with ease and flexibility.

Opening with Poulenc’s “Sonata for Piano Four Hands”, the concert bounced into life with a bright fanfare opening, settling back into lyrical and soulful playing. The pianists captured playful, almost child-like qualities in the second movement with gentleness and delicacy, before a soft-landing jazz chord to finish the piece.

Debussy’s “L’Isle Joyeuse” for solo piano, is based around the relationships between the whole-tone scale, the lydian mode and the diatonic scale. Huntingford played this with sensitivity and poise, capturing the mystique of the Channel Islands, which Debussy had visited with his wife and which inspired the piece.

Paul Dukas wrote “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in 1897 and it is originally an orchestral work. Many people are familiar with it through Walt Disney’s animation as part of “Fantasia”, Mickey Mouse being the hapless apprentice. In this, the pianists played with majestic assurity, capturing the relentless marching of the broken, wooden broom handles, whilst also hinting at the ever frightening scenario of chaos and despair suffered by the apprentice.

Saint-Saëns’ “Dance Macabre” was a doubly appropriate inclusion in the program, not only for its authentic French connection, but also because Halloween approaches rapidly later this month. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance for him on Halloween, whilst he plays the fiddle. The upper part was played with lyric beauty by Huntingford, whilst the rumbling and menacing bass was handled by Rumsey, occasionally somewhat too heavy-handedly, but none-the-less leaving the audience in no doubt as to the terrifying nature of the spectacle.

The second half of the concert opened with Gabriel Faure’s famous “Pavane”, Op.50 and was the only piece on the program that was dubious. The intimate orchestrations were lost in the translation to piano duet - heavy doubling of thirds, triple octaves and a grandiose approach somewhat destroyed the allure and delicacy of the original.

Lully’s “The Ceremonial March of the Turks” by contrast worked brilliantly as a piano duet adaption, the arrangement being by Huntingford. The pair played it with majestic and regal style, showcasing everything that is possible from a piano in volume, timbre, sonority and texture. This was a superb performance and a highlight of the concert.

The last time a piano duet reduction of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals” was performed in Canberra was in 1996 at the Royal Theatre, with pianists Dudley Moore and Rena Fruchter. It was also one of the most disastrous concerts in the history of live performance. William Hoffmann’s review in a local newspaper of the time carried the headline, “Bumbling Ineptitude from Dudley Moore”.

Rumsey and Huntingford played the piece with sparkling panache, uncanny musical unity and understanding and pianistic skill that showcased their talents and the music superbly. The linking dialogue by Ogden Nash was wryly delivered with suitable tough-in-cheek humour by John Rumsey, father of Andrew. This was the major work in the second half of the program and particular highlights in capturing the essence of the animals portrayed included the Lion’s roar, at least three different Cuckoos (there is only one in the original, played by clarinet), The Aquarium and Le Grand Finale, where all the animals come together.

A great night’s entertainment from two outstanding young pianists.

Also published in City New Digital Edition and Tony's blog.



Sunday, October 14, 2018

Julius Caesar


Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.  Bell Shakespeare National Tour at Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse, October 12 2018.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 12
 Photos: Prudence Upton
Kenneth Ransom as Julius Caesar
Bell Shakespeare 2018



Director – James Evans; Set & Costume Designer – Anna Tregloan; Lighting Designer – Verity Hampson; Composer & Sound Designer – Nate Edmondson; Movement & Fight Director – Scott Witt; Voice Coach – Jess Chambers
Cast:
Julius Caesar – Kenneth Ransom    Calpurnia / Octavius – Emily Havea
Brutus – James Evans (usually Ivan Donato)        Portia – Maryanne Fonceca
Casca / Messala – Ghenoa Gela    Cassius – Nick Simpson-Deeks
Trebonius / Soothsayer / Pindarus – Neveen Hanna
Devius Cinna / Lucilius – Russell Smith
Mark Antony – Sara Zwangobani

 
The movable set for Julius Caesar,
Bell Shakespeare, 2018

I see this production as a ‘mash up’.  I’m not sure what Gens X, Y or Z mean by this term – something like a deliberately untidy iconoclasm, with modern fantasy highlights, in a dressed down rough guide to the human universe.

For me, of the A generation even earlier than the B-B, the missing elements of unity of time and place mean I miss a neat development of an emotional through-line.  But you have to admit that Shakespeare himself, I suspect, was struggling to tie this story together.  The second half can seem interminable after the high drama of the murder and Antony’s ‘lend me your ears’ speech.

So I need to review Bell Shakespeare’s ‘diversity’ production with several audiences in mind.  It begins with Torres Strait Islander woman Ghenoa Gela, in costume as a commoner ready for Shakespeare’s opening street scene, speaking directly to the audience about recognition of the Ngunnawal land on which the performance would take place, as a formal request, in the traditional way, to the elders.  The audience unanimously endorsed her speech with applause.

Then, in Scene 1 Rome.  A Street.,  Flavius, a woman instead of Shakespeare’s male character, orders the commoners home, and Shakespeare’s text is under way.  Ghenoa plays a great commoner with all the kind of humour and body language we recognise as literally Indigenous to Australia.  Her acting skills add to her dance skills, as I have previously noted in her own show My Urrwai in the Sydney Festival (January 19, 2018).  She is a treasure on stage, turning her hand to the role of the first to stab Caesar, as Casca.

Julius Caesar under attack
Bell Shakespeare 2018

By that time we had found ourselves wondering about a lean and hungry looking Caesar, of African descent, whose voice no longer commands attention or seems to justify the clamour of the crowd – is this because, as Cassius tells Brutus in the story of failing to swim the Tiber, the man is physically weakened and on his way out?  He certainly has lost all strategic common sense, stupidly ignoring Calpurnia’s warnings of the danger of appearing in public at his rival Pompey’s tomb.

Then we find that Sara Zwangobani’s Antony is almost some kind of rival to Calpurnia.  Maybe she loves Caesar more than Caesar’s wife does.  It seemed this way when, after her terrific speech manipulating the crowd over Caesar’s dead body, she collapses in tears, drawing aside the shroud and kissing him.  (And is there something to be said about the African connection here?)

Sara Zwangobani as Antony
Bell Shakespeare 2018


The woman, Antony, entirely changes the conventional view of Shakespeare’s play – that the warmonger male Antony cynically uses Caesar’s murder to gain ascendancy, taking Octavius along with him.  But wait, there’s more!  Octavius is now a woman like Antony herself, opposing in more clever warfare, the men – Cassius and Brutus – and winning the day, while the males suitably commit suicide.  The one is a typical young boy risktaker imagining his day of freedom – written literally in Caesar’s blood across a huge banner; while the other, the more sensibly cautious, realises how naïve his political theory, and his military strategy, is.

Now, for modern millenials there is much to discuss in this new mashed-up avocado on toast.  It’s rather the story of Brutus on toast.  His great mistake is a warning for risktakers: before taking action, check out all the possible consequences.  Use the pill-testing facilities at the big music gig.

The message is, Don’t Use Ice.

And if you’re the old style man, sexist and full of self-importance, then watch out for the women – they’ll get you in the end because that’s how it should be.  Just ask Portia, strongly played by Maryanne Fonceca:

“No, my Brutus; you have some sick offence within your mind, / Which, by the right and virtue of my place, / I ought to know of.”

Although she kneels, note her pointed accusation: “Dwell I but in the suburbs / Of your good pleasure?  If it be no more, / Portia is Brutus’ harlot, not his wife.”

How’s that for Shakespeare’s relevance in modern times?  And praise must be given for the clarity of meaning that Bell’s actors achieved in speaking Shakespeare’s lines.

So what can I say, being born before the Baby Boomers in the early stages of a World War II even more to be condemned than Antony and Octavius’ defeat of the Roman Republic’s Brutus and Cassius (so that Octavius called himself Augustus as the first Emperor of Rome)?  That this production was a bit too messy for me, needed a more tidy design and direction, and probably should have kept the men in togas so they looked like Romans to suit Shakespeare’s language?

Well, maybe – but that really is for you to decide when they ring the foyer bells for Shakespeare’s  Julius Caesar at the Canberra Theatre till October 20, and then in Sydney at the Opera House from October 23 to November 25.






















HEATHERS:THE MUSICAL


Book, Music and Lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe
Based on the film written by Daniel Waters
Directed by Kelly Roberts and Grant Pegg
Dramatic Productions
Gungahlin Theatre to 27 October

Reviewed by Len Power 13 October 2018

New for Canberra, ‘Heathers’, based on the 1989 film of the same name, is a 2014 off-Broadway musical that seems to be having a steadily increasing success internationally.  It’s already played in Sydney and a new production is currently playing in London’s West End.

More light-hearted than the original movie due to an engaging musical score, the show unflinchingly presents a disturbing story of bullying, teen suicide, sexual assault and violence in an American school.  The language is raw and many of the characters are thoroughly repellent.

On the plus side, the directors, Kelly Roberts and Grant Pegg, have given us an imaginative production that has strong in-depth performances, lots of energy and a nice pace flowing effortlessly from one scene to the next.

Chris Zuber’s set design of high school lockers was inspired and worked very well as entrances and exits for the cast.  The complex lighting design by Carl Makin and Grant Pegg worked very well. The 1980s costumes by Jennie Norberry were colourful and matched the personalities of the characters.  The high energy choreography by Nathan Rutups was excellent, showing a good understanding of heightening the intent of a song with appropriate routines.

The able cast of eighteen performed the show with skill and enthusiasm.  Belle Nicol gave a fine characterisation as Veronica Sawyer and Will Huang was excellent as her troubled boyfriend, J.D.  The three Heathers were given very distinct and amusingly awful personalities by Charlotte Gearside, Madeleine Betts and Mikayla Brady.  Chelsea Heaney was a standout with her two very different characters of Martha Dunnstock and Paula Fleming.  It was hard to believe it was the same actress in both roles.  She achieved show-stoppers with both of her songs.  The rest of the cast added considerably to the show with realistic characterisations and strong playing.

There was assured musical direction by Matthew Webster with fine playing by a band that sounded larger than it was.  The singing by everyone in the cast was very strong.  It’s a complex musical score with lots of harmonies which were generally well sung.  Sound balance was mostly fine but some singing towards the end of the show was swamped by the sound level of the band.

This was a fine production of a modern musical with a very strong cast and clever direction and it was good to see another new musical that hasn’t played in Canberra before.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.

JULIUS CAESAR

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Directed by James Evans. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. To Oct 20.

Julius Caesar is tricky territory, full of rhetoric and Roman history and hierarchy. It is certainly not essential to roll out the togas but finding a modern metaphor is not altogether easy. Hitler and Mussolini have had their influences on productions and I remember a certain amazement as a school student when in the 1960 BBC TV modern dress version (fine cast with Michael Goodlife as Brutus and John Laurie as Cassius) the final verbal faceoff between the opposing armies happened over battlefield radios.

But in this production there’s a slide into a much less clear visual idiom. There’s some sense of the dictator in Kenneth Ransom’s performance and he makes a very disturbing ghost.  But there is not a great sense of the Roman citizens as a force full of individuals with opinions. Shakespeare’s crowds are full of people who know their own minds but who can be easily swayed.

The costumes don’t help, being modern but not very indicative of status. Some of the female characters dress up more but if you did not know the play you might be scrabbling. Brutus (director James Evans replacing Ivan Donato at short notice) and Cassius (Nick Simpson-Deeks) dress as casually as any of the citizens and Brutus’ wife Portia (Maryanne Fonceca) is in jeans and a pink cardigan.  

The conspirators are a motley bunch sartorially but there’s a performance of some comic energy in Ghenoa Gela’s wisecracking Casca.

The military and political elements that usually dominate seem to fade and what remains (and is very well done by Evans and Simpson-Deeks) is the fraught friendship of Brutus and Cassius. Brutus comes to the assassination through reason; Cassius through envy. Both paths are flawed, although given his head, Cassius might well have won in battle against the arrogant young Octavian (Emily Havea) and the passionate Anthony (Sara Zwangobani).

Zwangobani’s Anthony has fire and feeling but Havea’s Octavian clearly knows how things will turn out in the long run.


Meanwhile it’s Brutus and Cassius saying goodbye for what they both sense is the last time which lingers in a production that seems to say that it’s all shadows anyway.

Alanna Maclean