Something very wicked this way comes

Macbeth (The Danger Ensemble)

Queensland Academy for Creative Industries

February 9 – 25

When The Danger Ensemble is involved with a presentation of Shakespeare’s Scottish play, you know it is not going to be “Macbeth” as you know it. And given its feature of a sexy Mrs M, “Weekend at Bernie’s” type moment and even a Farnham number in support of its focus on ambition and ‘be your best self’ tagline, their current production certainly proves this to be true.

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This is “Macbeth” at its most hyper-real, featuring many intriguing changes to the original text, including emphasis on the larger-than-life passion between the power-addicted, murderous main couple (Chris Beckey and Elle Mickel) through not just their passionate reunion kiss but their laden physical interactions during conversation.


Gender-blind casting sees a blithe Princess Malcolm (Cienda McNamara) as heir to the throne of King Duncan, in mercurial juxtaposition to the usually solely dark and dangerous dramatisation of the rise and fall of Macbeth’s ambition for power and consequential slaying of all who are an obstacle in his path to kingship. Yet, seasoned Shakespearean performer Sally McKenzie is sincere and powerful in performance as Macbeth’s foil, the pivotal avenging Thane of Fife, Macduff.

Similarly, in her first major production role, Mickel is strong in her approach to characterisation of the aspirationally-manipulative Lady Macbeth, bringing a fresh complexity to a role usually considered to be of an older woman by presenting her less of a crazed harpy and more of a woman grieving the recent loss on a baby. With Beckey as a solid and compelling titular protagonist, the couple’s central relationship becomes a gripping one that really works well on stage.

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This, however, is a show that is all about its aesthetic, precise in its every detail, down to the glowing green of a cigarette ember. Even the violent visuals are gorgeous and although there is no hand-to-hand combat in Act Five’s culminating confrontation between Macduff and Macbeth, there are interesting ways of representing the battle in its place.

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The QACI theatre’s expansive stage allows for some immense scenes and Act Three’s royal banquet presents a particularly memorable visual image of the Da Vinci ‘Last Supper’ sort. Striking too are early scenes that feature Jack Hutchinson as King Duncan, side of stage, dressed all in white, with Elizabethan ruff, strategising over a table of war figurines while drinking milk as white as the blood which many characters will later be shedding.


Lasers also add to the Ben Hughes’ lush green lighting and silhouetted images, making the weird sisters’ prophecies unlike any version before seen. The soundscape emphasises the elemental forces that grip Macbeth, resounding the repetition of the hags’ chants, and amplifying the addition of the rarely-seen Witch Queen, Hecate.


Co-designer Arnavaz Lindsay’s costumes are sumptuous in their rich detail and contrast from imposing ‘winter is coming’ coat to plastic wrapped performers. And music enlivens the narrative with a pumping, at-times familiar soundtrack.


If the quality of a Shakespeare performance depends on the originality of the production and its new revelations regarding themes and characters, then The Danger Ensemble’s take on “Macbeth” is a work of excellence. Director and Designer Steven Mitchell Wright has created a smouldering celebration of the company’s tenth anniversary with a beautiful, powerful and very wicked production that proves the ongoing resonance of the Bard’s themes in relation to ambition and the corruptible nature of absolute power.


Photos c/o – Morgan Roberts Photography

Fast feast to your fancy

Festival of Australian Student Theatre

La Boite Theatre/ QUT Creative Industries

October 2 – 4

The Festival of Australian Theatre has again provided Brisbanites a feast of theatre, all for the cost of an average show ticket. Indeed, whatever your fancy, the three day festival was sure to have something on offer as part of its collective show of creativity and conversations.

As part of this year’s festival, a number of works featured post-show Q&A sessions. As well as providing the chance for artists to answer questions about their creative process, this encouraged an additional buzz to the festival centre with theatre-goers and participants urged to continue conversations between shows. In the case of “John Smith” by Shae Riches, it also afforded opportunity for appreciation of how the show has been shaped since its play reading presentation at last year’s event.


Of added note this year has been the inclusion of Senior Secondary student work, including work from The Queensland Academies – Creative Industries Campus (QACI), one of three selective entry independent State High Schools, which offers subjects dedicated to the creative arts. “Labeled” by Entropy is a fast-paced and interesting consideration of the ongoing need to question art’s fundamental purpose and is a credit to its student creatives. Offering similar pondering possibilities is the original piece, “The End” by Calamity Theatre, in which students from The University of South Australia presented a show of the range of circumstances of characters’ different experiences in the minutes before their deaths.

The dark themes continued with Underground Productions’ presentation of “The Pillowman”, the blackest of comedy shows that was seen most recently in Brisbane by Shock Therapy Productions. There was revisit also of a number of works that featured in the recent Short+Sweet festival of 10 minute plays, including Lachlan Stuart’s Gala Finalist work “The Longest Five Minutes” guaranteed to ensure that you never see a night out at the casino the same way again.

From Virago Theatre Co’s “Villians”, with witty musical exploration of the lives of Disney’s wicked murderesses, to Alexander Clarke’s crowded “Welcome, But Not Essential”, with its presentation of the cacophony of thoughts and feelings facing about-to-graduate high school teens, the three-day festival offers all range of works, as well as pop-up performances play-readings and work in progress showings.


One of the best things about a festival can often be its differentness and with appreciation of this, and flexibility in mind, its experience can be wholly rewarding. Indeed, sometimes the best times come from when, on whim, you follow suggestion to see a show based on word-of-mouth, or better yet approach without a pre-determined schedule at all. The youthful enthusiasm of FAST’s participants is testament to the dedication and innovation required in the industry’s future so should be both nurtured and celebrated, for which the festival continues to fulfil dual function.