Review: Wyrd: The Season Of The Witch (Ninefold / PACT)

Venue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Jun 20 – 30, 2018
Playwright: adapted from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Director: Shy Magsalin
Cast: Aslam Abdus-samad, Erica J Brennan, Jessica Dalton, Victoria Greiner, Matthew Heys, Melissa Hume, Paul Musumeci, Gideon Payten-Griffiths, Shane Russon, Brigid Vidler, Tabitha Woo, Luke Yager, Stella Ye
Images by Liam O’Keefe

Theatre review
Wyrd is a reconstitution of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which the eponymous character is now a woman. Also, she no longer has a wife to blame her misdeeds on, only a coven of witches that proves to have a more intimate relationship with Macbeth than we had previously known. The conflation of dialogue originally held by the separate entities of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, depicts a new personality that suddenly seems more believable than before. Her duplicitous nature now conveys an honesty that allows us to relate more closely with her circumstances; the ambition and guilt that define her story, increase in pertinence, since we are no longer able to perceive her sins as diffused and shared responsibility.

The production is wonderfully moody, with Liam O’Keefe’s lights and Melanie Herbert’s music providing a waking nightmare in which the action takes place. Director Shy Magsalin’s work with the ensemble is intricate and dynamic, not always elegant, but certainly very exciting at moments of high energy and sheer terror.

The trio of witches, performed by Aslam Abdus-samad, Erica J Brennan and Paul Musumeci, are thoroughly delightful, impressive with the taut cohesiveness of their offering. Gideon Payten-Griffiths appears late in the piece as Hecate to steal the show, completely mesmerising with the bold avant-garde sensibility that he brings to the stage. The inventiveness with his physicality and voice is quite extraordinary, and the show is elevated at a crucial moment, to give us some very special theatre. Macbeth, known only as Our Lady, is played by Victoria Greiner, not quite as flamboyant, but with more than enough conviction to make invigorating, this centuries-old story.

The Western patriarchal canon so powerfully instilled in us, refuses to be ignored. We can try to pretend to forget everything and foster some sort of replacement, or we can look for means of subversion that can assist with our progress. Reshaping Shakespeare to suit our times, will always contribute to the reaffirmation of his position of dominance, but when we are resolved to decipher the myriad problems of our indoctrination, we can begin to introduce meaningful transformation to how we see the world. Our master’s voice is hard to eliminate, but finding ways to expose his faults, can help set us free.

Review: The Tragedy Of Antigone (Ninefold / PACT)

ninefoldVenue: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists (Erskineville NSW), Apr 20 – 30, 2016
Playwright: Eamon Flack (after Sophocles)
Director: Shy Magsalin
Cast: Aslam Abdus-samad, Bodelle de Ronde, Dave Buckley, Erica J Brennan, Gideon Payten Griffiths, Kiki Skountzos, Pollyanna Nowicki, Scott Parker, Victoria Greiner

Theatre review
Antigone’s story is about defiance. Motivated by love and duty, she goes against the law of the land to do what she believes to be unquestionably right. Contradicting the wishes of Creon (who is Queen in this rendition), Antigone goes to bury her dead brother believing in the superiority of God’s will over the ruler’s whims. Based on Eamon Flack’s recent adaptation of Sophocles’ classic, The Tragedy Of Antigone is concerned with the place of government in the life of individuals, its impositions on our liberties and the spirit required for an authentic and dignified existence.

Director Shy Magsalin’s work is transcendent, compelling and powerful. Her gloomy atmospherics, beautifully established by Liam O’Keefe’s lighting design, transport us to our protagonist’s living hell where we discover a world of struggle and suffering. Greek tragedies are often less about psychology than they are about principles, and in this case, Magsalin’s ability to connect emotion with her play’s virtuous propositions is key to the production’s effectiveness. Precise and disciplined choreography permeates every movement on the stage, but strong impulses underlie all its physical contrivances for their symbolism to convey with poignancy.

Nine very well-rehearsed performers form an ensemble that does an outstanding job of finding cohesiveness, nuance and energy, for an intriguing interpretation of a meaningful but challenging text. Leading lady Erica J Brennan is full of passion. Attacking her role with impressive accuracy and tremendous focus, the actor’s tough presence provides a remarkable soulfulness to a heroine who is staunch and courageous in constitution. Equally accomplished is Pollyana Nowicki as Tiresias, the blind clairvoyant, equal parts ethereality and gravitas. Nowicki’s portrayal is macabre, mysterious and flamboyant, contributing significantly to the show’s exciting but dark sense of extravagance. It is noteworthy that the use of voice is especially potent in the production, with actors demonstrating excellent versatility and dynamism in the way they wish to be heard.

Love can move mountains, and as we see in The Tragedy Of Antigone, it can make women out of girls. Fearlessness may not be a rare quality in any of our legends, but it is hard to deny the importance of gender representation in Antigone’s tale. In an economy obsessed with action heroes, women characters principally defined by bravery, are desperately few and far between. This is theatre that we need, not to coincide with the current trendiness of feminism, but because it offers a kind of inspiration that would be of benefit to anyone. Believing that women can fight, and must fight, with the best of them, is a form of liberation crucial to people of all genders. Everyone has the potential to achieve the best of humanity. It is whether we allow ourselves and others that freedom, that will determine the extent of our evolution.