Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Directed by Christopher Stollery. Lakespeare and Co, Shakespeare by the Lakes 11. February 2019 at various outdoor Canberra locations.
I want to talk about sunsets…
Caught Lakespeare’s exuberant and stylish production at Tuggeranong Town Park on the Friday of the run; it was also using several other open air venues around town. Duncan Driver as a languid Duke Orsino and Lexi Sekuless as a lively Viola led a strong company in a rollicking production of the play. It had a forceful Maria (Lainie Hart), an unusually but effectively manic Olivia (Ylaria Rogers) and a real outsider in Malvolio (Christopher Samuel Carroll). Warm and spectacular costumes by Fiona Victoria Hopkins had impact in a large space.
Big relaxed crowd. An Indian man came up to me during the show and asked, ‘Which one of Shakespeare’s plays is this?’ King Rama VI of Thailand translated at least three into Thai* and I once glimpsed a school performance of the Casket scene from Merchant of Venice in a Bangkok shopping mall. No doubt about the lasting power of the bloke.
What’s intriguing are the circumstances and outcomes of outdoor performance.
Look at what the Greeks did. Go and test the acoustics at Epidauros. They built in the hill and the closeness between actor and audience. Amplification wasn’t needed.
Canberra is a little lacking in such places, certainly if you want a decent sized audience.
The amplification of voices is a godsend and modern mikes not very obvious but there is a loss of the warmth of a live projecting voice (and very occasionally the loss of the entire voice). We can hear the lines, however.
But the real issue is sunset.
As the sun goes and the stage lighting takes over there’s an exciting shift.
Before that things might not be so focussed or so visible, unless, as at Epidaurus, the attributes of the place focus the audience’s attention on the action.
That was certainly the case at Tuggeranong where I had to work hard to stay alongside the first half of a show that started at 6pm pretty well in full daylight with all the distractions of a park and the disadvantages of a flat site. And I was on the outskirts. By the time we were into the second half there was a glowing show bouncing around in the middle of the audience and all eyes were on it.
If the place itself gives you focus (or if you build raked seating**) then the daylight section is much less of a problem.
The late great lighting designer Francis Reid talked about ‘…that magical moment when the artificial light gradually takes over from daylight.’ ***
Perhaps that should be earlier in a show rather than later.
(If link does not work try www.shakespeare.org.uk and search for Shakespeare in Thai)
** Much Ado About Nothing out the back of the High Court 1988. ANU English Dept.
*** Francis Reid In an English Country Garden. An operatic experience at Hintlesham Hall, Suffolk.
(Unfortunately the last few pages of this entertaining article do not seem to have been scanned in)