Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), June 2, 2004

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)
by Anne-Marie McDonald 
 La Mama, Courthouse,  June 2 to 19, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) could be perceived as either a parody or an homage to Shakespeare's tragedies.

Canadian writer, Anne-Marie McDonald, uses excerpts from both Othello and Romeo and Juliet as the pivot of her play. However, much more of the script is her extrapolation in the style of Shakespeare's language. The play is intended to be a comedy but McDonald's dialogue is often slow and florid and Colin McPherson's production lacks the requisite comic timing, pace and rhythm. It emerges as a rather tepid farce with a few scenes that grab our attention.

Constance Ledbelly (Gail Beker) is a timid, aging Shakespearian scholar who ghost writes academic papers for her vain, incompetent professor (Chris Bunworth). Her own PhD is a very shaky thesis based upon an encrypted document written by an alchemist (Don Bridges). Constance believes this manuscript contains the comic source of Shakespeare's tragedies.

The premise that a tragedy becomes a comedy on the twist of a plot is an interesting but unoriginal idea. Presumably under the influence of the nicotine-chewing alchemist, a disillusioned Constance falls into her rubbish bin and arrives in the midst of Othello. Later, she drops in on Romeo and Juliet. (Kevin Dee, Fabienne Parr) In both plays she arrives at the crucial plot point that turns the play to tragedy.

By interrupting both plays, not only does she turn the narrative into a comedy but she becomes a character in the play. If the alchemy analogy is to be acknowledged, somehow this is a way of turning dross into gold.

There are some cleverly wrought sections of poetic dialogue but much of the script is over-written, laden with multiple metaphors or Constance's odd and irrelevant reminiscences. It is never made clear how alchemy relates to making Shakespeare's plays into farce.

Beker looks uncomfortable throughout in this difficult role.

The rest of the cast is uneven but Georgina Capper makes Desdemona a feisty warrior princess and Bridges has some good comic cameos.

This script never fulfils its promise. It is both too obvious and too confused in style and narrative and lacks the broad comic style that might make it work theatrically.

LOOK FOR: Georgina Capper's feisty, fighting Desdemona

By Kate Herbert

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