Tag Archives: theatre

Review: A Study in Scarlet (A Study of…) by Vicious Fish Theatre

I remember discovering the stories of Sherlock Holmes. After years of being familiar with the character through films, pastiches and pop culture references, I sat down to watch the Jeremy Brett TV series in the 1990s. It was so unlike the character as portrayed elsewhere that I was intrigued. This Holmes was not kindly and avuncular, but sharp and difficult. His Watson was an active everyman, not a fat, bumbling dimwit. Intrigued, I turned to the source material, and was instantly hooked. I still reread the books and short stories regularly.

Robert Lloyd came to Sherlock Holmes much earlier than me, though the impact was no less profound.  Holmes has been Lloyd’s hero since the lanky actor was 12 years old. The culmination of the literary love affair is “A Study in Scarlet (A Study of…)”. Lloyd re-enacts the first ever Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, recreating key scenes from A Study in Scarlet. The story is interspersed with Lloyd’s comments on how he discovered the Great Detective, elements of the story he finds peculiar or amazing, and (particularly in the awkward latter half of the book) inspired suggestions for casting the wild west adventure part of the narrative.

Lloyd portrays all the characters of the book with deft shifts in posture and voice, so you’re never confused about who’s speaking. It’s an enthusiastic rather than subtle retelling, but the key plot points are all there and you are rushed along with the story.

Lloyd’s obvious affection and enthusiasm for Holmes is infectious, and it’s that passion that makes this show so enjoyable. The conspiratorial asides and gleeful observations pull the show together. It’s charming and wonderful to see literature praised so joyfully on stage, and the story re-enacted so colourfully. The effects are simple and sparing, using projections and lighting, and all the more effective as a result.

As someone who already loves the Sherlock Holmes stories, I enjoyed this production immensely. Its energy, sense of fun and clear love of the books communicates as a fresh approach to a character that many people think they already know. My hope is that others who only know Holmes through his much-diluted form in popular culture will see this, be infected by that passion, and go to the source, just as the show’s director, Scott Gooding, did.

A Study in Scarlet (A Study of…) is on at Son of Loft, The Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol Street, North Melbourne until Friday 1 October. Tickets online from the Melbourne Fringe website.

Theatre Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Yohangza Theatre Company

When Tim and I travel, we like to catch a little theatre if we can. This can be a little tricky when visiting a non-English-speaking country. Luckily, we both love Shakespeare and are very familiar with a lot of the Bard’s work. This means that if a local production of a play we’re familiar with is on, we’ll try to see it. We already know the plot and we can concentrate on other elements, like stagecraft and local cultural influences.

I have seen ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’ in Italian, with Caesar and the Senate all dressed in Zegna suits. I’ve seen a brillilant Polish theatre company make ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in to a dark, disturbing and powerful work about sexual shame and how forgiveness and healing can come from love. Remembering the gentle and moving power of Thisbe’s speech at the end of this production still makes my skin tingle.

Cast of A Midsummer Night's DreamYohangza Theatre Company’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, if you’ll excuse the pun, poles apart from the dark vision I saw in Krakow – but only in mood and theme. The same excellence is there, and the same infusion of cultural interpretation of Shakespeare’s work to great new effect. It feels slightly like cheating to have surtitles in English, as most of the production is in Korean, but there is a smattering of English used to entertaining effect as well.

This show is a pared down version of the play – only the key plots of the two sets of lovers and the battle between the fairy king and queen remain. After that, however, most bets are off as this small, multi-skilled cast throw themselves into the story with the kind  of energy that makes you think they’ve been consuming nothing but guarana for a month.

Puck is split into two mischievous sprites, called duduri, portrayed with wicked verve by Jung Woo-Keun and Kim Sang-Bo. In this version, Ajumi/Bottomis a woman gathering herbs, and jealous Dot/Titania uses the Duduri to trick her philandering husband Gabi/Oberon into falling in love with the earthy, unlovely mortal.

Meanwhile, the original story of Hang/Lysander and Beok/Hermia running off, only to be followed by Loo/Demetrius and Ik/Helena, with the sprites managing to get both men doting upon Helena, is the one we’ve come to know. Plotwise, anyway.

Yohangza’s production is, as mentioned, filled with exhuberance and energy. Bawdy, skillful, funny and delightful, it’s a joy from start to finish. The cast dash about playing mortals and fairies, playing musical instruments in between. They dance, they leap and bound around the stage and, occasionally, through the audience. There are some inspired stylised fight scenes and physical humour which is both exquisite and hilarious. This is Shakespeare, South Korean style, incorporating Korean concepts in story telling and mythology in the weave of the tale.

It’s a great looking show too – the make up, costumes, spare set design (with it’s little twinkling star field that lights up whenever the stage goes dark) make it lovely and refreshing to take in.

The PucksI felt lighter after watching Yohangza’s troupe zip through their show with such playful joie de vivre. I  felt refreshed, entranced and tickled pink. Also a little gobsmacked at the unfailing energy of the cast, who ran through the audience to wait in the hall outside and proceeded to pose for photos in full make-up, to the clear delight of the crowd who pulled out cameras and mobile phones to take advantage of the moment.

Yohangza Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at the Playhouse at The Arts Centre from 8-11 September 2010. If you want to see Shakespeare through the eyes of anothe culture, and have some wonderful clownish fun while doing so, you should head along!