Monday, December 3, 2012

The Polyphonic Bard: Music And Shakespeare In Our Time

The Street Theatre November 30 to December 2
Directed by Tamzin Nugent
Review by Len Power

It was customary in Tudor and Stuart drama to include at least one song in every play. Only the most profound tragedies contained no music except for the sounds of trumpets and drums. In his later tragedies, William Shakespeare defied this custom and used songs startlingly and movingly, particularly in Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet.  So, an evening of mostly Elizabethan period music sung by The Pocket Score Company interspersed with scenes from Shakespeare’s plays was a very appealing idea.

On a nicely atmospheric set designed and lit by Gillian Schwab, the five men of The Pocket Score Company thrilled with their intricate harmonies and choice of music.  Commencing with ‘If Music Be The Food Of Love’ from ‘Twelfth Night’, set to music by Henry Purcell, they followed with works by Thomas Tallis, Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni Palestrina, Thomas Morley and others.  The music for ‘Bryng Home The Good Ale’, the words dating from the 15th century, was beautifully composed and arranged by The Pocket Score Company member, David Yardley.  Thomas Tallis’s, ‘Spem in alium’ or ‘Hope In Any Other’, by Thomas Tallis was sung to an accompanying recording, providing a spectacular range of harmonies.  It was electrifying and a perfect finale to the production.

Interspersed with the singers, students from the Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art played scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and recited sonnets.  The pieces were well chosen to complement the music and, while the performances were uneven, you could see the underlying talent in these students which will be strengthened with more experience.  I was particularly impressed with the staging and performance of the physical action between Petruchio and Kate from ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and Brendan Kelly’s confident delivery and understanding of the words in his performance as Benedick from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.

Directed by Tamzin Nugent, there was a nice flow from one scene to the next with imaginative use of the set and Aaron King’s audiovisuals.  I would have preferred to see the cast of actors and singers in, at least, simple period costumes, rather than modern day dress with no uniformity.  If this was to give it a contemporary feeling, it didn’t work, especially as the female actor alone was mysteriously in period costume.  Also, if the singers had had period-looking covers over their basic K-mart black music folders, it would have added to the atmosphere created by the show.

This was a charming and stimulating evening of good music and fine words.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 2 December 2012