Adelaide Fringe 2018

When There’s No Strength in Men

The Raw Shakespeare Project

Genre: Drama, Theatre

Venue: Marion RSL

Festival:


Low Down

Across 3 emotionally-charged vignettes adapted from ‘MacBeth,’ ‘Henry V’ & ‘As You Like It,’ we strip-back the traditional and present some of the strong women of Shakespeare’s famous works. On an intimate and raw stage, some of Adelaide’s best young Shakespearian actresses bring new life to the famous roles of ‘Lady MacBeth’, ‘Princess Katherine of France’, ‘Rosalind’ & ‘Orlando,’ with stories told through their character’s eyes – strength in the weakness of the men around them. Set to period and avoiding the trappings of modern theatre, our three actresses tell their stories on a traditional stage, but with the gentle modern relevance these timeless stories allow.

Review

Shakespeare’s female characters have habitually been overshadowed by male counterparts. The Raw Shakespeare Company’s production strives to correct this, by presenting three exerts from the cannon of works, and adapts the characterisations to put the women front and centre. By strengthening the characters, we’re forced to look at them in new lights. Lady MacBeth presents not as the icy companion pressing for power, but as driven, more vulnerable wife. Katherine of France is portrayed not so much as the sweet and innocent, but as a smart and purposeful, and a whole new twist is presented to us when Orlando is not a man, but a woman, in As You Like It.

The three extracts are perfectly chosen to fully utilize the female characters the directors have chosen to present and allows the actors to completely embrace the different interpretations. While staying true to Shakespeare’s text, the way the scenes have been cut and blended are what allows the storylines to fully embrace the characters strengths and the women shine in this bold production.

Performed in the Marion RSL hall, the production makes use of a bare stage, with seating on either side. Only a few lighting towers, and two flats – one with a built-in seat – make up the staging for the three vignettes, which allows the actors to fully utilize the space and perform to both sides of the audience.

The strong cast of eight are rightfully dominated by the performances of Leah Anderson, Isabella Shaw and Amelia Lomen – although Lomen’s vocals during her scenes are not as strong and create a challenge when she’s not facing the audience. In particular, Anderson performs the role of Lady Macbeth with an almost sympathetic demeanour, while Shaw’s Orlando is charming as it is engaging.

While the production was well executed, there were a few flaws. The three scenes were broken up with musical interludes, performed by Lomen – who was dressed in modern clothing instead of the period appropriate costume that was worn by the cast. As the musical numbers were primarily Shakespeare sonnets, this was somewhat confusing and broke the flow. What was also disappointing, was the lighting tech/stage manager choosing to check her phone and appeared to text message during the show.

Thankfully, the solid performances, along with well executed direction make for an enjoyable production that shines a new light to Shakespeare’s words. Worth a look. Recommended.

Published