MEASURE FOR MEASURE
MEASURE FOR MEASURE, Sport for Jove at Bella Vista Farm Park, Baulkham Hills, 8-30 December 2017 and Everglades Gardens, Leura, 14-27 January 2018. Photography by Kate Williams: above - Yalin Ozucelik and company
Measure For Measure is impenetrably dense and obtuse at the best of times – it’s not one of Shakespeare’s best, he did have his off days – and when only about one third of it can be heard, in snatches, it’s pretty much a lost cause. I left at the interval.
The thing is, the back row of the temporary bleachers at beautiful Bella Vista is the approximate distance from the stage as Row G or H in a theatre – prime position, that is, in conventional terms. Experienced stage actors should be able to project their voices beyond the on-the-grass picnickers; while experienced actors and directors should also be aware of the directional vocal perils of playing in an outdoor space – without walls or ceiling.
This is vital in such a text reliant piece as Measure For Measure and some of the cast weren’t up to it on opening night, their lines lost to the side and even to the back of the stage, or squawked without meaning into the night. It was emphasised, ironically by actors such as Yalin Ozucelik (Duke Vincentio/Friar Lodowick) and Janine Watson (Claudia) – in particular.
In this production too, Sport for Jove has fallen into the trap that caught early Bell Shakespeare Company productions: of casting actors whose first language isn’t English without regard to adequate vocal coaching. It might be politically correct to do it, but it’s no favour to actor nor audient.
A handsome setting of large frames on wheels looked good but was slow to adapt to different scenes, while snatches of amplified music to accompany these lumpen moments only emphasised how inadequate are the un-amplified human voices in the same circumstances.
Having the company costumed as if straight from the set of The Handmaid’s Tale is not sufficient to have it live up to the show blurb: “What rules your life? The law? Your conscience? Your instinct? Faith? Should we be ruled by justice or mercy? Should a government legislate your sex life, your morality? How do you responsibly answer the prompts of your deepest, darkest impulses and remain an upstanding moral citizen?”
I’m sorry to say this upstanding moral citizen had enough by the end of the first half and gave in to her deepest, darkest impulses to cut and run. Life is too short, although I feel it might do better at the Everglades in Leura (see dates above). If you want an opinion from the front row picnickers you might check out Cassie Tongue’s at Audrey Journal or John Shand’s at the Sydney Morning Herald.
NB: This has been revised to correct the reviewer for Audrey Journal.