Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Women Beware Women" - June 2007

After enjoying the RSAMD production of "The Winter's Tale" earlier this month we decided to book up for their production of "Women Beware Women" by Thomas Middleton which they described as a companion piece to Shakespeare's, also staged at The Arches. Although for the most part a different cast from "The Winter's Tale", comparisons between the two productions are inevitable.

With a narrative as contrived as "Women Beware Women" and family dysfunction worthy of any soap opera, it was always going to be difficult to play it straight, and in many ways it would have been more successful if they had chosen to ham it up and play it with a knowing nod to the audience. As it was, it seemed to lack any nice touches to lift it above the ordinary, and even the 1930's outfits added little.

Maria Nobauer as "Leantio's mother" and Emma Lambie as "Livia" gave the strongest performances of the night, well pitched for the small space and their silent interactions during their chess game were great to watch. Ashley Smith as "Bianca", who we had seen previously in "Spanglebaby", had some strong moments as the wronged woman, but her character's mood switched too quickly in the writing for the acting to make credible. Anneika Rose was given her moments to shine as "Isabella" with her dancing and singing, but they seemed out of place rather than fitting the character of the production.

Sadly many of the male cast suffered, to a greater or lesser extent, of delivering lines at a volume far higher than required in the small stone walled venue. While not at an uncomfortable level it did remove a lot of subtlety from the performances, although Allan Lindsay and Stuart Martin as "Sordido" and "The Duke" gave performances more appropriate to the venue.

This wasn't a bad production, but truth be told there wasn't a great deal of joy to be taken from it either, and it does have to go down as a disappointment.

1 Heckle

Waldorf said...

I came out tonight wondering what I'd seen. I couldn't quite decide what in particular was to blame for what was a pretty hostile reaction from me.

The story itself is a classic high tragedy but you felt so little sympathy, or even empathy for the characters the ending came as a relief.

The Duke (Stuart Martin) is the character that captured my interest most. You know what drives him, and he's aware of the consequences of his actions. This knowledge seems to evade the other characters. Their moods changed like the wind.

Bianca (Ashley Smith) was a prime example. I couldn't follow the shift here at all. From devoted young wife, to prey, to screaming harpie, to worldly wise courtesan, to schemer and back to devoted wife was just too much in 2 hours. I'm not sure that any actress could manage this convincingly.

Although a stronger performance from Emma Lambie as Livia I again had problems that were probably more related again to the text than the actual performance. Her actions lacked the necessary self interest to make them explicable. There was no rationale behind most of them.

Again I had issues with the sound levels as I'd mentioned in The Winter's Tale. If I hadn't seen Self Contained and Spanglebaby manage to get these just right I would be seriously wondering if The Arches was as a suitable venue for theatrical performances. You don't need to project to the rafters when there aren't any!

I'm afraid this wasn't a very successful night for me.