Directed by Duncan Driver
Presented by the Q Theatre, Queanbeyan
31 July – 10 August, 2014
Review by Len Power 31 July 2014
Local writer, Duncan Ley, had a much deserved success with ‘The Burning’ when it was first staged in Canberra in 2001. It’s good to see it getting another run here.
Set in the early 1600s in Germany, it focuses on a witchcraft trial where a young lawyer, Francis Schiller, has to defend himself against accusations of witchcraft by the feared Inquisitor, Ernest Vasolt. It’s disturbing to see from subsequent history that we haven’t come very far at all since that time. There is an additional modern day resonance in the play with an exploration of the troubled relationship than can occur between fathers and sons.
The simple set, designed and built by members of the company, has been enhanced with appropriate and subtle art work by scenic artist, Wayne Shepherd. Kelly McGannon’s moody lighting heightens the overall effect and the music by Tim Hansen adds depth to the atmosphere of the play. Costumes by Jarrad West, Duncan Ley and Marion West nicely evoked the period.
In the role of Ernest Vasolt, Duncan Ley gives a controlled and chilling performance as a fanatic who has lost sight of his humanity. Jarrad West as the Bishop, Phillip Schiller, gives a heartfelt performance that the audience can really relate to. Will Huang gives one of his best performances ever as the creepy Frederick Vasolt. I didn’t realize it was Will until I looked in the program at interval. There is also good work from Tony Turner, Amy Dunham, Peter Holland and Geoffrey Borny and the rest of the cast in the smaller roles. Jack Parker’s characterisation of Francis Schiller has the right depth but his diction needs to be clearer with more light and shade in his delivery, especially during the interrogation scene in the courtroom.
Director, Duncan Driver, has produced a thought-provoking production of this excellent play with strong characterisations from his cast. It’s harrowing in its torture descriptions but there is no physical violence shown. It’s an important play that deserves to be seen.
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 3 August 2014 from 5pm.