Directed by Lizzie Schebesta
Sport for Jove
Presented in conjunction with Sydney Hills Shakespeare in the Park alongside Love’s Labour’s Lost
Bella Vista Park Farm, Corner of Northwest Boulevard and Elizabeth Macarthur Drive, Bella Vista
Season: 11 - 30 December (Bella Vista) 9 – 24 January (Leura)
There is something very satisfying about an artist poking fun at his or her own craft. Combating the danger of growing overly serious, Sport for Jove does just that, with genial results. Catering to an audience’s love of Shakespeare, or love of the occasional wisecrack at Shakespeare’s expense, will warmly appreciate the show’s comical nature and deft observations that the privilege of hindsight allows.
William Shakespeare’s lesser-known brother, Ralph, has an axe to grind. A playwright himself, he is weary of action on the stage bearing no resemblance to life as we know it. These frustrations catalyse in the creation of a work in the style of ‘Shakespearealism’, awash with elongated pauses, ordinary subject matter and non-flowery language. The audience sees circumstances unfold as Ralph is tasked with convincing the incorrigible Mr Henslowe to allow his play to be staged. Lizzie Schebesta takes on the direction of Josh Lawson’s short one-act contemporary work, indulging in the nuances and legacy of Elizabethan paradigms. Lawson’s writing aptly targets audiences who are relatively familiar with theatrical tropes of Shakespeare’s era, as well as the modern phenomenon of realism…and the writing is very, very funny. However anyone with the slightest knowledge should be able to engage with the comedy through the life and physical comedy breathed into the text by Schebesta’s direction. Edmund Lembke-Hogan plays Ralph with ample ambition and likeability, given the audience’s contemporary perspective. He is strongly contrasted against James Lugton, as Mr Henslowe, playing his role with staunch reverence for tradition and brimming with frustration, as the events’ farcical nature is unveiled. Aaron Tsindos and Gabrielle Scawthorn bounce off and complement each other as the players in Ralph’s work, and unfurl delightful comic work. It is refreshing to see Scawthorn cast in a male role, a decision which contributed splendidly to the irony of the production. A prime line within the play, delivered with acute precision, is the suggestion by Scawthorn’s character that perhaps females could play female characters. A riotous response from the audience accordingly ensues.
Sometimes Shakespearean texts can be taken a little too seriously. Shakespearealism is evidence that it doesn’t hurt to laugh at one’s self, as a play that is flush with self-deprecating thespian quips. This production is a vigorous refreshment for audiences, and a valid reminder to continue to take from Shakespeare’s plays all that persists to be relevant, and frame the rest within its context. While some things appear to have remained overwhelmingly the same, certainly, for good reason, much has changed.