121 - Feast Festival 2011
This production draws loosely on the Sonnets of William Shakespeare, the only text being short extracts from a few of them. The majority of the performance is physical theatre, taking place mostly on or around a double bed.
William, the Bard himself, played by Tom St. Jack, and Will, played by Jordan Fraser-Trumble, are rival playwrights. Then again, they are quite likely two aspects of the same person. Henry, played by Phillip Harker-Smith, is the “fair friend”, the lover of William, and Kate, played by Brittany Plummer, is the “dark lady”, a prostitute with whom Will falls in love.
Directed by Charles Sanders, with movement choreographed by Velalien and lighting and sound by Chris Donoghue, the work uses the words of the Sonnets as a starting point, reinterpreting them into a modern setting and exploring today's social mores. They raise a good many questions about love in a thought-provoking hour of theatre.
This is an ensemble piece in which the relationships between the four seem to be in a constant state of flux, with couples forming, separating, being alone and group sex. Sex is, in fact, a large part of their interaction and one is left wondering how much love, if any, is contained within all of the lust. Perhaps, too, this a reflection on our modern society. There is certainly little to be seen of the Romantic love that we see in some of the Sonnets. The focus seems to be on the Sonnets that deal with the more corporeal aspects.
The four performers give a powerful and committed engagement with the subject matter, with very good individual performances as well as some great ensemble work. There are a couple of technical issues, though, that adversely affect the production.
As the short snippets of text are separated by long gaps the audience is not prepared when they do come and have just about accustomed themselves to the Bard's language as it ends, so a more measured delivery and extra thought to diction and projection, particularly with the loud music that runs throughout tending to drown the voices at times, would be an advantage in helping the audience to understand the dialogue, as much of it is currently being missed.
The biggest problem with this work is being able to see what is happening, as the seating is all on the same level as the action. With people cavorting on the bed much of the time, or occasionally sitting on the ground, only those in the front row get an uninterrupted view of everything and those further back see heads and shoulders of those who are standing.
This is another strong production from this group and, if those technical difficulties can be overcome, so much the better.