Tuesday, 19 November 2002

The Changeling, Nov 19, 2002

The Changeling,  by Thomas Middleton  and William Rowley  
La Mama   at The Courthouse
Wed to Sat 8pm Sun 6.30pm until November 30, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

English Jacobean playwrights of the early 1600s wrote two types of performances. One was the court masques which were glossy spectacles equivalent to our peppy musicals.

The other was the revenge tragedy, a play designed for an intimate space and small audience. It was steeped in blood, revenge, adultery and betrayal.

The Changeling, by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, is a fine example of the latter type.

This version of The Changeling, adapted from the original by Julian Rickert and directed by Suzanne Kersten,  succumbs to the fatal attraction of making the play feel contemporary.

The story is about Beatrice  ( Berry Liberman ) who loves Alsemero  (Leo Faust). She enlists the disfigured De Flores  (Ian Dixon) to murder Alonso,  her betrothed. (Paul Moi)

Everything goes pear-shaped when Beatrice is discovered to be an adulterous murderess.

Kersten puts a live rock band on stage. Interspersed between the Jacobean scenes are raunchy old pop songs including Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare  and Total Control  by the Motels.

The production does not work for a number of reasons.

 The acting is uneven although there are a few competent performers. Leo Faust  as Alsemero  and Susanne Chapman  as Isabella  are particularly good. Noel Jordan  and Richard Bligh are colourful in dual roles.

The rest of the show looks amateurish. The direction is clumsy and the style tilts hazardously toward the melodramatic verging on parody.

There is far too much meaningless dumb show between scenes. Actors engage in intense gazes, overly emphatic delivery of dialogue and at times an almost comical interpretation of the tragic mode.

 The audience laughed inappropriately for a tragedy, which is never a good sign.

The bedlam scenes were stereotypical, chaotic and badly acted. The rock music was inappropriate, too loud, poorly sung by actors and performed like a self-indulgent video clip.

It is always good to witness an adventurous production. However, this one is unable to meet its promise.

By Kate Herbert

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