fringe: when there's no strength in men

adelaide fringe: when there's no strength in men by raw shakespeare project
Following on from last year's Hamlet and Shakespeare's Ménage a Trois, the Raw Shakespeare Project returned this year with When There's No Strength in Men.

Shakespeare has a lot of strong female characters, and characters from three plays are on show here, Lady Macbeth, Katherine of France from Henry V and Rosalind from Orlando and Rosalind.

In fact there's a double dose in the Orlando and Rosalind section, as they take the cross dressing and deception of Shakespeare to the next level by having Orlando also be a woman disguised as a man.

Leah Anderson reprises her role as Lady Macbeth from Menage and while she does well, I still find her a little stiff, although clearly that's an acting choice. Her habit of delivering much of her dialogue very fast through clenched teeth however does make some of it difficult to understand. And it's odd because she's a lot easier to understand in the comedy roles.

Russell Slater makes for a good Macbeth, and I think the first one I've maybe ever seen wearing a kilt.

Isabella Shaw is impressive as Katherine of France, a little like last time she commands attention whenever she's on stage, and I was most impressed that she was managing not just Shakespeare but Shakespeare in French during this sequence. Slater makes for a menacing Henry during this sequence and Damien White has a good turn as the foppish King Charles of France.

Then after the tragical and the historical, it was time for the comical. And a play I am mostly unfamiliar with, As You Like It. Shaw returns as the genderbending Orlando while Amelia Lorien becomes her Rosalind.

Lorien was also doing brief interludes between the sections, singing various sonnets and a part of Loves Labours Lost with musical accompaniment from Kim Orchard. She has a beautiful singing voice and Orchard is a skilled musician, so they were quite lovely sections.

But Lorien excels as Rosalind/Ganymede and steals almost all of her scenes while pretending to be a man. In fact everyone seemed to be on top of their game in this section... Lorien and Shaw as the lovers, Anderson as first Rosalind's cousin and then a slightly lusty shepherdess, White as the fool, Touchstone and Slater as the lovesick shepherd.

The staging of the whole production was interesting... presented not so much "in the round" as "in a line between two banks of audience", the set was virtually non existent, being two standing boards at either end where the actors could duck away and a central lighting rig (and more than once I'm sure the actors semi blinded themselves by looking directly into those lights), but it all works.

I'm hoping at some stage they just put three of Shakespeare's comedies together... that would be a fun evening.

yani's rating: 4 maidens fair out of 5

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