Shakespeare in the Park 2012 | Shakespeare WALeft – Nick Maclaine and Georgia King. Cover – Nick Maclaine and Georgia King. Photos – Reece Scott

Shakespeare WA
has served up something different this year with a talented company of actors presenting three plays, two of the Bard’s own and one parody of his complete works.

Nestled under clear January skies in King’s Park, audiences have flocked to the opening shows of the 2012 season which play every night of the week (excluding Sundays). The three very different offerings have something for everyone, and I would suggest the full experience, so get along and see them all if you can.

Two of the cast members, Sam Longley and Sean Walsh appear in all three productions (which is quite an impressive feat) the first being The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Damon Lockwood, Longley and Walsh tackle the massive task of encapsulating dozens of plays in one night, journeying through many different presentational genres including a rap song and a cooking show. The men play themselves playing characters, “corpsing” frequently and including the audience whenever possible. Being a parody, the humour is best appreciated by those who already have a general understanding of the plots and themes of Shakespeare’s plays, but to keep it accessible, the most famous plays (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet) are featured heavily. The more discerning Shakespeare buffs will appreciate the hilarious references to the more obscure plays. The three actors had a brilliant rapport and comic timing that kept us in stiches all night.

Stylistically, the most traditional play of the season is The Tempest. It was in this production that the costuming most impressed me. Designed by Ingrid Proos and assisted by an able crew of 13, the extravagant gowns and robes were contrasted with the traditional and magical dress of the island natives. Director Paige Newmark has threaded Aboriginal musicians, dancers and actors into the story of European Royalty (and various others) finding misfortune at sea and washing ashore on an island of native people and mythical creatures. The plot twists through the traditional Shakespearean themes of romance, conspiracy and revenge with comic relief provided by Sam Longley and Claire Munday, whose characters spend the entire second half intoxicated. Overall, The Tempest is well designed and delivered, and purists will not be disappointed.

Rounding out the program was the most experimental of the three, and a refreshing change from the original in my opinion because Newmark has chosen to set the well known farce, The Comedy of Errors, in 1980s Fremantle. Although the script has merit, wit, intelligence and sincere themes, it follows his (some may say) overused and eventually frustrating formula of mistaken identity. As with many of Shakespeare’s comedies, there are separated twins and confused acquaintances that get themselves into all manner of trouble. With good casting, a little wardrobe magic and convincing characterisation, it was easy to accept that the leading men (Nick Maclaine and Will O’Mahony) were twins parted at birth. The same could be said for their servants (Sean Walsh and Paul Montague) whose characters also happened to be long lost identical twins. As audiences have come to expect from this Shakespearean genre, the cathartic ending to the chaos reveals all. This particular interpretation concluded with a dance number that the cast embraced with just the right amount of camp enthusiasm to pull off successfully. Prepare to be staggered by the striking costume and cameo appearance of Cameron Clark.

Bring a picnic to enjoy before the show and if you want to be close to the front you’ll need to sit on a rug or cushion. Low chairs are welcome a little further back and regular sized chairs may be set up furthest in the rear. RAC members get tickets for $39 and on the Shakespeare WA website there are discounts available for booking multiple shows.

Shakespeare WA presents
Shakespeare in the Park 2012

Venue: Western Australian Botanic Garden (access via Forrest Drive)
Dates: 6 January – 4 February, 2012

Most read Perth reviews

After a trying 5 day lockdown it was a relief to be among the few who could revel in the...

A small group of amateur actors, some professionals, no overarching theme for some ten minute...

Every one of the eleven short plays were excellent. Their very different topics and...

To this critic, as to many Short+Sweet patrons, this programme of two peformances of 12...