The Forge at The Court in the Pub Charity Studio, Christchurch
25/06/2019 - 29/06/2019
ARMY OF YOUNG PERFORMERS TAKE THE STAGE AT THE COURT THEATRE
Battle is raging at The Court Theatre as The Court Youth Company present their biggest production ever in epic play Boudica.
Telling the story of legendary Iceni Queen Boudica, this monumental drama is an invigorating, hair-raising spectacle, performed by some of Canterbury’s most promising young performers.
Boudica’s story is an ancient tale of revenge and power, following her attempt in 61AD to recover her homeland, stolen by the occupying Romans after her husband’s death.
“Boudica is an adaptation of the life of the Queen of the Iceni, who is a real historical figure,” says Director Dan Bain. “It tells the story of her uniting the disparate warring tribes of Britain to overthrow the occupying Roman forces.”
Although set in the distant past, Boudica was written just two years ago, giving this ancient story a modern twist.
“It’s got that feel of something classic and worthy, but with a really modern and contemporary sensibility to it,” Bain says.
Bold, brash and fierce, Rehearsal Assistant Director Riley Harter says, “audiences can look forward to experiencing an epic revenge story in Boudica.”
Harter, who works with the Youth Company as The Court’s Education Co-ordinator, is thrilled to be working with this year’s young performers as they take on the company’s biggest challenge to date.
“There’s a lot to look forward to with this show – especially seeing what these young performers are capable of,” she says.
With well over twenty characters, numerous battle scenes and a series of intense, dramatic monologues, Boudica is a huge undertaking for any organisation, let alone a training and performance company.
“I’m really impressed by this year’s cohort,” Bain says. “They’ve got a really good work ethic and I’m excited to see where we can get this piece to.”
One of the biggest challenges is choreographing multiple fight scenes in an exciting yet safe fashion. “I’m teaching them how to fight each other so no one gets hurt,” Bain assures.
“This element of physical theatre is new to us,” says Boudica herself, company member Lillian Fata.
“It’s exciting getting to play a very physical performance,” says fellow company member Meg Fulton. “We get to fight, I get to stab some people – and we get to slap each other!”
Despite its ancient story, audiences can expect a show that’s big on scale, grit and drama in Boudica.
Boudica runs at The Court Theatre
25 – 29 June 2019
Tuesday – Saturday 7:00pm
Adult $22 Student $15
Bookings: phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz
Boudica: Lillian Fata B
lodwynn: Meg Fulton
Alonna: Sarah Lawrence
Cunobeline: Richard Townsend
Clothen/Ensemble: James Caughley
Badvoc: Anaru Shadbolt
Andraste/Ensemble: Freddy Thornton
Gunnervik/Ensemble: Stella Cheersmith
Waylen/Sejanus/Ensemble: Travis Woffenden
Guard/Ensemble: Kaitlyn Cooper
Druid/Ensemble: Abby Burkin
Warrior Woman/Ensemble: Sam Scott
Gaius Suetonius: Josiah Morgan
Catus Deciamus Felix Elliott
Silvia/Ensemble: Jorja Farrant
Cato: Luka Malthus
Lucius: Haydon Dickie
Sestu: Anita Mapukata
Roman Woman/Ensemble: Isayah Snow
Centurion 1: Quinn Kueppers
Director: Dan Bain
Rehearsal Assistant Director: Riley Harter
Lighting Designer: Paul Johnson
Costume Designer: Hayley Douglas
Stage Manager: Erica Browne
Youth , Theatre ,
Stylish, emotionally affecting, muscular, agile, ripples with energy
Review by Erin Harrington 26th Jun 2019
There is something particularly special about well-run youth productions. They are able to marry the energy and enthusiasm of young performers with a sense of wild artistic ambition that is sometimes tamped by adult, professional companies which may have less scope for experimentation and big casts because of teeny little things like sponsors, wages, and commercial imperatives.
The Court Theatre Youth Company’s urgent, stylish and minimalistic production of Boudica, directed with empathy and vision by Dan Bain,is a vital, beautiful example of what happens when things go right.
Bain stages Boudica in the traverse, which creates ample space for dynamic movement and striking tableaux. (It also means that there are no bad seats). The twenty-strong company, who are aged between 17 and 21, is consistently strong and focused in their performances and characterisations. They are well supported by a youth crew, who have some very tricky marks to hit.
Tristan Bernays’ script, which was first produced in 2017 at Shakespeare’s Globe, dramatizes the story of British folk hero Boudica, the queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe, who led an uprising of Briton tribes against the Roman Empire’s occupying forces around 60CE. The play combines heightened verse, often in iambic pentameter, with more profane, blunt prose. Be prepared for a whole lot of f-bombs, much as Shakespeare’s audiences would have primed themselves for dick jokes and Elizabethan double entendres.
The play opens with the death of Prasutagus, a contentious ally of Rome, who has left half his kingdom to his queen Boudica (Lillian Fata) and his two daughters, hot-blooded Blodwynn (Meg Fulton) and compassionate Alonna (Sarah Lawrence). Boudica petitions the slippery local Roman authority, Catus Deciamus (Felix Elliot), but he reneges on the agreement, citing unpaid debts and Rome’s view that women cannot inherit titles. Instead, Boudica is captured and flogged, and her daughters offered to the Roman troops as sexual playthings. The women escape, bloodied and battered, and in recompense Boudica, like an avenging fury, rallies a massive army made up of a fractious alliance of Briton tribes. After initial, brutal victories, the Briton forces are out-strategised by dour Roman soldier Gaius Suetonius (Josiah Morgan), whose success finally establishes Rome’s authority.
The play charts Boudica’s rise and defeat through the arc of classical tragedy. It channels questions of revenge and conciliation through the characters of her daughters, and through the competing perspectives of Briton’s diverse tribespeople, the Imperial occupiers, and the Roman civilians who have been born and raised on Britannian soil.
There are obvious narrative and mythic parallels here with Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, with its conflict between ‘savages’ and Romans, which Bain directed last year for the Court. These are combined with a more contemporary exploration of the roles of women in war and society, the tension between a desire for vengeance and the compromises of peace, and questions about whether we try to recreate the old or build the new. The more pop culture savvy audience members will see as much Game of Thrones, Black Panther and contemporary rape revenge narratives here as they do Roman history plays.
While I can see the dramatic and historical impact of Boudica’s premiere in London, it is also a provocative script for New Zealand audiences and performers, as we continue to grapple with the downstream effects of colonisation, land acquisition and warfare, both cultural and physical. I’m left thirsty for a similar production that dives into the New Zealand Wars.
Fata, as Boudica, offers a truly impressive and mature sense of strength, restraint and authority. Lawrence and Fulton, as Boudica’s quarrelling daughters, offer both power and vulnerability, and ably embody the play’s competing visions of a future marked by war or by reconciliation. It’s impressive to see younger performers deal with traumatic material with such a sense of control. Morgan, as Gaius Suetonius, offers a compelling portrait of a professional soldier who sees himself not as an individual, but as a cog in the machine of empire, and is thus unwilling, or unable, to compromise.
The production is pared back and utterly gorgeous. The Britons’ faces are marked with stylised black streaks and druidic markings. Performers are costumed simply and effectively in blacks augmented with furs, stylised leather pteruges, and simple epaulettes. I like some of the small character flourishes, such as Roman bureaucrat Catus Deciamus’s louche suit jacket.
Paul Johnson’s stark lighting design creates dramatic lines and curves of light and shadow. Blood effects are achieved expressionistically with handfuls red powder, which arc and explode in puffs through the beams of light, coming to coat the black floor with an imagined river of viscera that’s churned and muddied with the performers’ footprints. Bain’s insistent, bellicose music creates a rising sense of anger, and then panic, and works to maintain the production’s momentum during the climax’s frequent blackouts and scene transitions. The impressively physical, dance-like battle sequences are brutal and beautiful. My only quibble is that the space’s challenging acoustics, in combination with the play’s intense physicality, means that vocal clarity and control is sometimes an issue.
The result is a stylish, emotionally affecting production that is both muscular and agile. It also ripples with energy – at nearly two and a half hours it fair cracks along. Boudica is a credit to its young company and its creative team: all up, it’s bloody satisfying.
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