Alexander Sparrow in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

10/09/2019 - 14/09/2019

The Sparrow & Boyle Comedy Festival

Production Details



Wellington’s Gryphon Theatre will host the Sparrow & Boyle Comedy Festival from September 10-21. Boasting 23 performances of nine different shows, there’s something for everyone, with works ranging from Shakespeare to black comedy, political satire, and more.

Multi-award-winning Wellington character comics, Alexander Sparrow and Katie Boyle, of Sparrow & Boyle Entertainment, are the performers behind the shows. Combined, their shows have been nominated for 16 awards, winning three: Pat Goldsack’s Swingers Club & Brothel, Best Comedy, Palmy Fringe Festival; and DJ Trump , Best Solo Show and Outstanding Achievement, Wellington Comedy Awards. They are working in association with producer Jett Ranchhod, of Mirrored Faces Productions.

The S&B Comedy Festival includes two Shakespeares (The Merry Wives of Windsor and Much Ado About Nothing). Merry Wives is a one-woman version of the show, starring Katie, which has already seen 30 performances around the country. Two Trump-themed shows also feature: DJ Trump and Becoming Trump. These are performed by Alexander, whose impersonation has appeared in The Wall Street Journal. He was also selected as a World Top 10 Trump Impersonator by Laugh Factory, Hollywood.

The remaining critically acclaimed shows are Pat Goldsack’s Swingers Club & Brothel, ENIGMA, Fred From Featherston, and de Sade. On Sunday 15 September, there will also be three interactive tours of Gryphon Theatre, hosted by the award-winning character, 87-year-old Pat Goldsack, and Fred From Featherston, Featherston’s former #1 male model.

Alexander Sparrow in Much Ado About Nothing
Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington
Tuesday 10 – Saturday 14 September 2019
7:30pm
BOOK

MIRRORED FACES PRODUCTIONS

Wellington, New Zealand

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Theatre , Solo ,


Energetic, engaging – and could be clearer

Review by Adam Macaulay 12th Sep 2019

It’s a brave man, or woman, who decides to take on a script that requires they play a dozen or so different characters.  When they take on Shakespeare they really are scaling up the order of difficulty in delivering a story clearly. There’s something in me that admires an actor who wants to do this, but my admiration is tempered by a kind of terror for the story itself the telling of which requires a special level of discipline in orchestrating its delivery.

Alexander Sparrow gives his energetic all – he simply has to – to a cut-down version of Much Ado About Nothing. He manages to fill the performance space with huge energy in front of a small audience and never looks like he is about to give up.  And where, in such audience-performer circumstance, some performers might be tempted to let a kind of alienating desperation colour their work, Sparrow resists and, for the most part, manages to befriend his audience eliciting some spontaneous rounds of applause and frequent bouts of laughter. Despite the paucity of available materials with which to work, he even pulls off some audience involvement. But, thankfully he doesn’t push his luck in that regard.

Something else I am thankful for was that there is no sense of a crippling reverence for this thing we call ‘Shakespeare’ – it’s so important for a modern audience that we are quite irreverent with our handling of these stories – especially the comedies. And in fact, it is perhaps Sparrow’s irreverence that most impresses and allows him to connect with us.  He displays a charming ability to boldly apologise for the rare times when he loses his place or fluffs a line. Once he manages somehow to stop cold, turn to us, shrug and say, “Take two” before re-running the botched line. Rather than having us disconnect with the story this moment actually adds to the charm and keeps us onside. For me a self-effacing shrug beats an embarrassing silence followed by a stoic effort to ‘get it right’. It’s live theatre and those little moments, if handled well, remind us of our human frailty and the fact that live theatre is a communal event. 

But despite the audience’s evident admiration for a highly energetic performance from a tireless performer, and very palpable affection for him, I come away with some real concerns about the clarity of the telling. I do wonder what someone who didn’t know the story beforehand might make of it what with the avalanche of characters that fall upon them.  

Without dumbing things down or playing to an imagined lowest common denominator, maybe actors and directors in rehearsals need to return to the basics more often with this simple question: “What will someone who has never heard or seen this story make of what we’re doing?” Because that has implications for a whole lot of elements that come under something we might call orchestrating the delivery for sense. The orchestrating involves a lot of physical stuff like changes of tempo, character physicality, movement, relative positions, manipulating the space as well as using sound and lighting and other supportive design elements. All these are as much story as is the basic understanding of spoken text.

Now I have to say Sparrow’s understanding of the spoken text is clearly evident throughout but orchestrating the delivery for sense needs more attention, especially around character definition.

Clarity in a solo performance requires more than personal understanding of the words and unbridled energy. It requires precision in things like taking the time – albeit just another millisecond – to clearly change from one character to another; like ensuring the characters inhabit the same position in the scene – the same mark on the stage; like preserving eye-lines between characters; like giving the audience a moment to realise the character from position and physicality. All of these are for us, but so necessary.

I do wonder if sometimes the actor and director have made it even more challenging by eschewing the use of some very simple hand props and costume accessories to help with character differentiation. And it would have given a little dab of colour to the design – not a bad thing in itself. There are a couple of moments when masks were used – the play actually demands it – but even then I do wonder why, for example, in scene when two masked characters are conversing, why isn’t the option taken to use two masks instead of just the one? One mask in each hand is so obviously a simple and effective way to separate the characters and to help us to follow the story.

There is no doubting Sparrow’s energy in what seems like a personal challenge to take on Much Ado About Nothing and he surely has the ability to engage the audience and get them onside.  If you know your Shakespeare already, or can grab a detailed plot outline before the show, there’s probably something here for you. I might even venture to say you could have a good night out.  But personally, I would gladly spend an extra five minutes in my seat for more clarity, sharpness and precision in the delivery. 

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