Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Theatre: Blood Will Have Blood

Excerpts from William Shakespeare

Directed by John Sheedy
Set and costume designer Daniel Ampuero
Performed by WAAPA 3rd Year Acting students Ben O’Toole, Lara Schwerdt, Griffin Blumer, Ryan Jones, Jessica Clarke, Kali Hulme, Joshua Brennan, Emma Chelsey, Michael Drysdale, Charlotte Hazzard, Philippe Klaus, Nicole Shostak, Nic Westaway, Alex Williams and Gemma Willing
Subiaco Arts Centre
October 22 - 27, 2011
Griffin Blumer and Emma Chelsey
WAAPA’s class of 2011 have topped off their training with a wild ride through Shakespeare at the Subiaco Arts Centre in Blood Will Have Blood. While it didn't work at all for me as a piece of cogent theatre, the imagination of the guest director, Barking Gecko’s John Sheedy, and the talented student designer Daniel Ampuero deliver a fascinating exercise for these dazzling young things, and a glimpse of what they will become.
Joshua Brennan, who has already made an auspicious professional debut in Perth Theatre Company’s Tender Napalm, gave an unconventional take on Romeo, with the equally impressive Nic Westaway as his same-sex Juliet. Emma Chesley was a crackling Lady Anne to Jessica Clarke’s jerking, sinister Richard III, and she joined Gemma Willing, Michael Drysdale and Ryan Jones in a stylish tilt at A Midsummer Night Dream’s young Athenians. From the same play, the hugely impressive Ben O’Toole, as Oberon, and Alex Williams, as an exuberant, explosive Puck, sought out love-in-idleness in the comic high point of the evening – how O’Toole would have added to Black Swan’s Dream earlier this year! Other, darker, highlights were Charlotte Hazzard’s Lady Macbeth and Nicole Shostak’s Ophelia, while Lara Schwerdt, Griffin Blumer and Kali Hulme in a number of roles confirmed the promise they showed in WAAPA’s Ruben Guthrie back in June and Philippe Klaus manfully took on the evening’s toughest assignment as Hamlet, while all these other immortal characters burned bright around him. As always with WAAPA shows, the ensemble work was faultlessly executed and exciting to watch.        
The problem for the theatregoer is that, even as a pastiche, Blood Will Be Blood is way too much to take. Shakespeare knew the value of the big set piece, but he also knew to roll them out judiciously; indeed it’s a fair argument that his unique greatness lies not so much his big scenes and great characters; other playwrights before and since have had the pyrotechnic ability to live alongside him, albeit deep in his shadows. It’s the ordinary scenes and characters, the town porter peering out through the town’s gates to see who knocks without, the attendant lords who swell a progress or start a scene or two, where Shakespeare stands completely alone in writing for the theatre. There’s no time for this watchmen or those lords in Blood Will Be Blood as it careens from one mighty scene to another, and we soon come to miss them.
I found myself suffering from a sort of concussion of riches towards the end of the first half, before a coffee and the sheer energy of the performances got me back on track after interval. All of which would matter a great deal if our comfort and pleasure was the purpose of the exercise, but it’s not, of course. We’re there for a purpose, giving these rising young actors the audience they need while they hone their craft. It’s a privilege to have that opportunity. 

Link here to an edited version of this review in The West Australian      

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