Unitec Theatre, Entry 1, Carrington Rd, Mt Albert, Auckland
02/06/2012 - 09/06/2012
Rome is but a wilderness of Tigers
An introduction to the 2012 Unitec Shakespeare season
by Unitec’s Head of Acting/Live Performance, John Davies
From a shadowed surface of Shakespeare’s prism comes the murderous and bloody Titus (adaptation of Titus Andronicus). From a bright and tragic plane of the same prism comes the sad romance of Romeo and Juliet.
Unitec’s 3rd year acting students have been divided into a company of men and a company of women. Each company has a director and the task of performing each play in 80 minutes. To the men goes the city of Rome and its murderous cats, and to the women, Verona and its ill fated lovers.
Shakespeare puts the extremes of human behaviour onto the stage for us to examine and reflect upon. With cross gender casting and an edited text the quest is for essence and transcendence.
What more could we ask of our actors?
- Unitec’s Year 3 Acting students will graduate at the end of the year after three years of study.
- Their final performance in 2012 will be a Stage Musical in November yet to be announced, which has been chosen due to the enormous vocal and musical ability of this year’s graduating group.
- They received rave reviews from the industry and patrons for their first performance in 2012, The Dining Room by A.R Gurney directed by Cameron Rhodes, which was staged in April 2012
- Although studying, the majority of Year 3 Acting students are already involved in the theatre and film/TV industry. This explains the practical focus of their final year of study.
- After the Shakespeare season, the Year 3 Acting students will embark on secondments in the industry or pursue individual projects during the mid year break. They will be marked on these secondments.
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WHAT / WHEN / WHERE?
Romeo & Juliet
performed by female actors from Unitec’s Year 3 Acting class
Dates: 1st, 4th, 6th & 8th June
performed by male actors from Unitec’s Year 3 Acting class
Dates: 2nd, 5th, 7th & 9th June
Venue: Unitec Theatre, Entry 1, Carrington Rd, Unitec Mt Albert AKD
Cost: $15 Adults, $10 Concession, $5 Students/Unitec grads
Book at iTICKET.co.nz or (09) 361 1000
Titus: Paul Lewis
Tamora: Cole Jenkins
Saturninus: James Roque
Bassianus/Aaron: Jason Hodzelmans
Lavinia: Eli Matthewson
Chiron: Jason Wu
Demetrius/Lucius: David Sutherland
Strong all-male company plumbs the depths
Review by Adey Ramsel 03rd Jun 2012
In turns shocking, violent, gripping and haunting, this all-male and edited version of Titus Andronicus fires on all cylinders.
Running a little longer than its promised 80 minutes, this is storytelling at its best. Through workshop, traditional technique and, I imagine, rehearsal-based improv, director Benjamin Henson brings all his theatrical trademarks to bear, proving there is more than a little of Peter Brook about him.
It may help to know the plot line behind what is generally considered Shakespeare’s ‘worst play’ but if you were not equipped I doubt you would fall far behind.
This is as strong a company as I’ve seen, each taking turns to support another from the back line. This makes the play less about Titus actually and more about the whole, which in itself is not a bad thing. I doubt Paul Lewis as Titus would mind, being in the middle of a company of equals. Indeed it would take a rare talent to outshine this band of seven.
To give each his due: Lewis’s Titus is menacing and creepy. With a hint of macabre there’s a touch of Richard O’Brien about him and not just in appearance. Cole Jenkins as Tamora is a joy to watch develop. From captured Queen of the Goths to sly bitch of the Emperor’s bed, Jenkins has the pulse of this woman. He delivers a subtle and praiseworthy performance.
Jason Wu and David Sutherland as bad boys Chiron and Demetrius add a spark of humour and playfulness, with Sutherland adding a nice warrior stance to his portrayal of Lucius.
Jason Hodzelmans has the dual role of Bassianus and Aaron. The first has never been one to shine, in any production, being the Emperors wet brother but Hodzelmans has the pay-off of playing Aaron, the scheming Moor, and it is a sly villain we see at work. The editing has the Moor’s comeuppance mentioned but not shown, a victim of a time restraint but something I did miss.
James Roque brings a consistency to Emperor Saturninus, delivering finely tuned characterisation as each emotion overwhelms him in his transitions from spoilt ruler to frightened schoolboy.
Lastly, but certainly not least, a young man who gave me one of the best images of the evening: Eli Matthewson. As Lavinia he is cute; as raped and mutilated Lavinia he is daring, bold and full of pathos. As she reveals the names of her attackers, producing each letter in the ground with sheer agony and need, we are quiet. It is one of the more chilling moments I have spent in a theatre – we know what’s coming, we saw it happen, we know who’s guilty, which makes the revelation even more nerve tingling. Kudos here to all involved and especially Matthewson for his well-paced agony.
Being a workshop process you can see the reasoning and conviction behind each scene and positioning. Moments such as Chiron and Demetrius lying upon their own names as scrawled by their victim were, you can imagine, met with cries of “Yes, Yes!”
Imagining the process of what would have occurred behind this production adds to each moment’s deeper sense of purpose. Each character and line has a reason for being and each actor has justification for being there.
Much is made in the programme that this is the first time Unitec’s Performing & Screen Arts has been able to assign a complete student design team to the task of production. If this is the calibre of 3rd year Unitec students then the future of theatre bodes well.
Brian Maru has designed a set that is effective, simple and most importantly suits the production (an easy observation to make but not an easy set to design!). Costumes by Madison-Leigh Wright, again simple, blend with just the right touch of simplicity. Michael Forkert must have studied all departments well for his lighting design. It highlights, focuses and has impact. Jin Shin’s sound design is in your face, at times shocking and to the point. Effective.
In a production such as this there is no right or wrong, it’s merely a question of whether you like it or not. Whether you enjoyed it or not. I did. Big time.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Adey Ramsel June 5th, 2012
Ok, it's not often I get thrown a curveball in theatre but I just have been. The Paul Lewis who played Titus in this production is the Paul Lewis I know. I have employed Paul in my own company. I have directed Paul closely. I have directed Paul's wife on stage. It's fair to say I know Paul Lewis. And yet on Sat night I watched the entire production of Titus with Paul playing the title role and did not even recognise him. Didn't even realise he was in the play.
Now reviewers do tend to watch a little closely more than that of a normal audience member so given the history I should have picked this up. (I have in the past gone to shows and commented, "Oh, so and so's in this.") But I didn't, which of course, makes Paul's portrayal even more dazzling to me.
To separate the actor from the character to such an extent that for over and hour and a half I don't recognise an actor I've worked with in Unitec's small theatre space is an amazing talent to possess. I wouldn't have reviewed Paul any differently had I know but as I didn't, and yet do now, his performance is even more incredible to me, rooted deep inside the character as he saw it and completely 110% focused on his zone. One of the chief mandates of acting is to portray someone else, but how many of us achieve it, to an extent that there is nothing of you, the actor, remaining in the character? Brilliant. I want to see it again!