Dog's Bollix Irish Pub, Auckland
16/05/2006 - 28/05/2006
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Stuart Devenie
Shakespeare’s 1608 romance in a working pub: an ideal setting.
Including: Nisha Marthan
Bawdy Bard at the bar
Review by Denis Edwards 17th May 2006
Newton Road’s Dog’s Bollix is a close-to-perfect venue for Shakespeare’s comedies and romances. As a rough-house theatre it has already made the annual ‘Bloomsday’ festival a sell-out hit. There is the required pleasantly seedy atmosphere. The stage is well lit. There are different levels and the bar does a brisk business.
If there is an unintimidated crowd ready for some entertainment this is it. They get an elegantly crafted love story nicely laced with wit and plenty of knockabout comedy.
By the time Cymbeline came off the assembly line (1608), Shakespeare had twenty years of writing behind him and had made his money from the plays, the Globe and a light touch in the London property market. He was also only two plays and two collaborations – The Two Noble Kinsmen and Henry VIII, both with John Fletcher – away from calling it a career.
Cymbeline is an English king with a marriageable daughter, Imogen, who marries against the Queen’s, her stepmother, wishes. The stepmother, driven by a dark and relentless need to control everything is a piece of work, moving ferociously against Imogen.
The cast is a co-operative of young actors, with Stuart Devenie, who pops up in a genuinely surreal Jupiter sequence, there to keep things stepping right along. In a nice touch, about ten minutes before the 6.30pm start, the cast is out among the audience, asking which of two characters they would like them to play. Once the group has spoken it is into the costumes, lights up and off. From there they don’t have the luxury of dwelling and expanding. This is a pub and the band comes on at 8.30pm.
Devenie has kept all the plots and threads intact. To get home under the required finish time he has trimmed speeches with Posthumus Leonatus’ twenty line dissertation on womanhood, for example, wrapping up at the five-line mark.
Because Cymbeline is a romance, we know there’ll be plot twists all over the place and who will end up with who. It’s the journey not the destination that matters. There is comic cross dressing, some cheery and light raunchiness, an Iago-esque villain, Daniel Mainwaring’s rollickingly evil Iachimo – who highlights Shakespeare’s then-mellowness by making one of the dumbest bets in all of drama – a crew of bucolic and cheerily murderous Welsh oafs whose spirit was channelled for the 1960’s movie Deliverance, and a couple of Secret Servicemen complete with sunglasses and earpieces.
It’s a furiously multitasking cast, with strong performances from the leaders and deep into the bench. Among them are Nisha Marthan’s ‘no victims here’ Imogen, Matu Ngaropo’s blinged-up and none-too bright Cloten … Edward Peni has a polished and sly evening as one of the most powerfully built Queens in his part of town – remember coins were tossed here to decide who did what.
Rachel Dyson-McGregor’s overstressed servant is a character for the ages. It would not be difficult to see Sarah Gallagher’s stern Cymbeline managing to rule England and ensure the punters at the Dog’s Bollix ate up all their greens.
Because this is a working pub the cast didn’t have the luxury of rehearsals in the venue. That caused an anxious moment or two, and as the season picks up speed there will be some improvising, especially along the narrow corridor outside the Snug. Not that it matters. This is about comedy and the triumph of true love, something a slightly missed entrance here and there won’t crush.
An efficient pub staff gets the beer and the sharply spiced nachos to the right places without disrupting the performance. It’s a good night out, and at $15.00 it’s a snip for professional theatre in Auckland.
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Peter Haynes May 17th, 2006A great review, Denis. Spot on. I was there too. We actually got to flip a coin to determine who acted which role, which made the quality of the performance that much more impressive. (Denis may have been at the bar and missed this.) In its cut-down form, and mostly being played for laughs, it comes close to parodying the Bard at times... but provides a rollocking good time. Thoroughly recommended.
tony de Bres May 17th, 2006A group of Polytech acting grads decide to do an obscure Shakespearian play and do it in a pub in K Rd... WHAT MASOCHIST WOULD ATTEND SUCH IMPENDING HORROR? Why, one of John Smythe's foot-soldiers, dragged up out of God knows where and flung into the hole... WELL, GOOD ON DENIS EDWARDS! There are always reviewers bouncingly keen to attend first-nighters at the ATC and Silo and the St James so they can thrill to the twitter and waft scented bouquets about, but you don't get many who'd turn up at a pub in Newton Gully to lift a pint to unknowns doing Cymbeline. Good stuff. Keep it up. Tony de Bres