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WILL AND ME: A Night of Shakespeare and Ugly Girls (2013) Review
A NIGHT OF SHAKESPEARE AND UGLY GIRLS (2013) REVIEW
(A review written back in May 2013, featuring a shorter critical analysis of Love is My Sin and an additional review of a one-act play entitled One for the Ugly Girls, both stage at La Mama Theatre in Melbourne, Australia.)
Perhaps one of the most influential theatres in Melbourne, The La Mama Theatre has had a long and amazing history of theatrical productions that became legendary for pushing many social boundaries that no artist dared to touch. And the theatre’s latest offerings are no exception: Their latest plays, Love is My Sin (written by William Shakespeare and Peter Brook) and One for the Ugly Girls (written by Tahli Corin) are pieces that continue that daring tradition.
Love is My Sin is a play that doesn’t have a plot. Instead of having a story that goes from point A to point B, it is performed in the form of an absurdist piece where two unnamed characters (a male played by Geoff Wallis, and a female played by Jenny Lovell) enter into an anonymous space, and by using selected love sonnets composed by William Shakespeare as their dialogue, they engage in a passionate argument about the various feelings and deeds that are generated by love: Jealousy, acceptance, time wasting, and heartbreaking separation.
At first, an idea like this sounds idiotic; but when you get inside the theatre and see it, you instantly fall in love with its genius and heart: The acting from Wallis and Lovell is often poetic, human and succeeds at generating a heartbreaking reaction from their audience. The stage and lightning design of Manda Webber and Sam Hopkins also succeeds due to its homely and inviting appearance—especially with Webber’s (and the director, Kate Hebert) choice to have quotations from Shakespeare’s sonnets posted about on the walls of the stage, making the atmosphere feel educational, philosophical and artistic, thus gives us an interesting insight of who these people are.
To accompany the acting, the classic music is used as the play’s incidental music. And this is where the show fails: The musician performing the compositions (a cellist named Helen Barclay) often displays a sign of incompetence by stumbling on her chords and constantly allows the music to play for far too long. Though she does try her best and puts a lot of effort into her work throughout the show, you come out of the theatre feeling that her performance will be overshadowed by much more talented musicians in future productions to come.
The other play being staged at La Mama, One for the Ugly Girls, tells the story of a widowed artist (played by Syd Brisbane) living in the country who believes he has hired a beautiful model (played by Lori Bell) to sketch. But when she arrives and turns out to be unattractive (both physically and verbally), his dreams of creating a passionate masterpiece are shattered. However, his opinion begins to change when his model starts to offer him her shoulder to cry on when the loss of his wife begins to destroy him emotionally. Soon he is taught an overwhelming lesson: Even the ugly people have such beauty on the inside. A lesson that is put to the test when the real model he asked for (played by Hannah Norris) arrives on his doorstep.
The play is one of the most moving pieces ever written: It has the writing of a Hollywood tearjerker, but at a simple and philosophical pace. The acting truly excels with every gesture and every smartarse line (and the fact that Norris and Bell got nude for this show was a really brave move, and deserves a round of compliments for their eagerness); the set design (by Webber and Hopkins again) was beautiful and felt so real; and the direction by Adriana Bonaccurso….unbelievably clunky! (You could tell that she’s a director whose only directorial note was: “Just stand anywhere!”)
All in all: Go and see these shows while you can! They are beautifully staged and beautifully written. You’ll have a good time for sure!