Directed by Lizzie Schebesta
Written by Josh Lawson
December 11, 2015 to January 24, 2016
Playing outdoors in Sport For Jove's Summer Season 7 is the brilliant short one-act comedy, Shakespearealism, by acclaimed Australian actor, writer and film director Josh Lawson.
It’s 1594. Shakespeare’s lesser known brother, Ralph Shakespeare is a playwright is his own right, but centuries ahead of his time. Introducing ‘realism’ to Shakespeare’s acting company and audience was always going to be a challenge, with its psychological detail, it’s pauses and silences, its nuanced subtext and stilted natural dialogue that holds a much truer “mirror up to nature” than his famous brother’s work. But Ralph is not only in his brother’s overwhelming shadow and dealing with actors used to poetic blank verse where they say everything they feel out loud, but he is also up against the promoter / producer too – the great Phillip Henslowe, the man who managed, bought and sold many of Will Shakespeare’s greatest plays in the 1590s.
The players at the Rose Theatre are about to stage their evening performance of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost when Ralph has a private meeting with two actors to work on his latest script.
The play is a comic masterpiece and a searing satire on the way writing has evolved in the centuries since Shakespeare’s poetry rewrote the rule book. It plays as a bonus curtain raiser to Love’s Labour’s Lost throughout the festival season.
I saw Shakespearealism 8 years ago at the Old Fitzroy Hotel and it knocked my socks off. To this day, it’s still the funniest show I’ve ever seen.
The play starts with a hastily thrown together play reading on the Globe Stage. It is a new play by Ralph Shakespeare (William’s fictional brother). Only trouble is that Ralph is 400 years ahead of his time. The plot unravels into chaos, dismantling Ralph’s artistic ideals with it. As it implodes, it reveals the joy, the pain and the absurdity of a life in the theatre - both in Shakespeare’s time and our own.
I’m so excited to be giving the play a new life in an alfresco setting. It’s a perfect festival show – more akin to the experience Ralph might have had if one of his plays had ever made it to the Globe stage…
Josh is a wonderfully funny and frightfully clever writer. He anchors his comedy with a kind of naturalism and psychological truth, which bubbles and fizzes with detailed eccentricity. His characters in Shakespearealism remind me of the work of Sacha Goldberger – a brilliant artist who combines the meticulous detail of Flemish classical portraiture with pop culture. For example, he paints Star Wars characters in Elizabethan costumes, as though they were sitting for portraits in the 17th century.
If anything was missing from this delicious sponge cake of a play on Elizabethan theatre, it was the proverbial cherry on top that women could not play women on stage. So we’ve thrown that into the mix and I’m so thankful to Josh for jumping on board with it.
Shakespearealism is a brief yet unforgettable theatrical teaser. The comedy is absurd, but it is grounded within a story that has the potential to move us: the struggling artist seeking to be valued and understood.
"Lawson’s writing aptly targets audiences who are relatively familiar with theatrical tropes of Shakespeare’s era, as well as the modern phenomenon of realism…and the writing is very, very funny. However anyone with the slightest knowledge should be able to engage with the comedy through the life and physical comedy breathed into the text by Schebesta’s direction."
Emily Richardson | Upstaged Reviews
Photography by Marnya Rothe
Aaron Tsindos | Lewis
Edmund Lembke-Hogan | Ralph
Gabrielle Scawthorn | Pennyman
James Lugton | Henslowe
Lizzie Schebesta | Director