Our critics deliver their verdicts on the biggest performances around Sydney this week.
Playhouse, March 1
Until April 2
Reviewed by JOHN SHAND
The production is wandering along slightly aimlessly when Jessica Tovey’s Lady Macbeth receives her husband’s note relaying the witches’ prophecies. Reading it, she instantly grips us and draws us in, casting a spell infinitely stronger than the witches, themselves. No, it doesn’t last, but that’s the nature of this Macbeth: moments of triumph intermingled with moments best forgot.
The play begins auspiciously enough, the moody music, lighting and the ensemble’s slow-motion movement suggesting clear, thoughtful artistry. But then the witches speak, and the mood is trashed along with the verse. They convey no sense of otherness, merely mouthing their lines as if reciting a laundry list, and so the initial good work is undone.
The chemistry between Hazem Shammas and Jessica Tovey is a highlight.Credit:Brett Boardman
The most concise of Shakespeare’s plays and perhaps the most doom-laden work of art ever conceived, Macbeth isn’t easy. Bell Shakespeare’s artistic director Peter Evans has had Anna Tregloan design costumes that locate the play around 1920, just after World War I, while her set is framed by green velour drapes. The specificity of the era and the sensual elegance of the curtains immediately takes us far from any sense of the play’s core: a brooding abyss devoid of time, place, heaven or hell.
Macbeth can succeed in broadest daylight, without a wisp of dry ice or the usual pervasive gloom, and this one has the head start of Max Lyandvert’s striking music and Damien Cooper’s lighting. Furthermore, Evans has judiciously cut the text to eliminate recapitulations of the plot, and so it bolts along, the interval arriving while you’re still adjusting to the tone and feel.
Much of that tone and feel rest squarely on the shoulders of Hazem Shammas as Macbeth. His interpretation is quite unlike any other: an almost vaudevillian version that emphasises the character’s often-lost humour (however black), while being variously petulant and unhinged. Had Richard III taken up acting rather than throne-stealing, his Macbeth might have come out something like this, with all these exaggeratedly stretched vowels.
It is an interpretation that, like the production as a whole, is uneven. Shammas is at his best in Act V, when crazed and remote, and, like the soldier he was before he was a king and mass-murderer, furiously oscillating between fear and bravery. What he does not quite catch is the frenzied imagination which fuels so many of the phantasmagorical soliloquies.
In blood stepped: Macbeth is famously Shakespeare’s goriest play.Credit:Brett Boardman
This doesn’t mean they’re thrown away, but they don’t always impale you the way they should. “Is this a dagger…”, for instance is too big and externalised, with little sense of the crashing tectonic plates within his brain. And yet he’s utterly compelling near the end when imparting “I have almost forgot the taste of fears…” and when receiving the news of his wife’s death.
A particular strength of his performance is the chemistry with Tovey: you are not left wondering about their passion, which partially ignites the madcap plan of regicide, thereby opening the floodgates on a tide of blood. Tovey’s desperately sad “Out, damned spot…” speech provides the crucial heartbreak that somehow goes missing in the murder of Lady Macduff and in the news of it reaching the latter’s husband.
Among the rest James Lugton stands out, firstly with his Duncan, and then by making the comedy of the Porter – “Knock, knock” – as full as a bladder. Julia Billington and Jeremi Campese are convincing as Banquo and Malcolm, respectively, and Evans’ direction of the ensemble scenes is a consistent highlight that, alas, outshines most of the delivery of the verse.
Qudos Bank Arena, March 1
Reviewed by JAMES JENNINGS
Over the past 30 years Snoop Dogg has made the unlikely transition from controversial gangsta rapper who beat a first-degree murder charge to ubiquitous pop culture icon dabbling in everything from acting to writing a best-selling cookbook.
Now he’s become the kind of household-name entertainer your mum likes, there’s a question around whether or not Snoop will water down his first Sydney show in almost a decade to cater to his current, more family-friendly image.
Old Dogg, new tricks: The veteran hip-hop star delivered for his fans.Credit:Wolter Peeters
The second he hits the stage in a Crip-blue bandanna-print jumpsuit amid plumes of smoke, flanked by four scantily clad pole dancers and various off-siders, it’s clear we won’t be getting the PG-friendly version of the man born Calvin Broadus Jr.
With so many side hustles, it’s easy to forget the 51-year-old forged his fame in the music game, but tonight he’s here to remind the faithful he’s got bangers for days, starting with his verse from Dr. Dre’s classic The Next Episode and not letting up from there.
Although he could choose to coast on his arena-sized charisma alone, Snoop has clearly worked hard to curate a decades-spanning selection of hits and fan favourites into a feel-good party mega-mix.
Hearing era-defining ’90s West Coast rap classics like Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang, Gin and Juice and Who Am I? (What’s My Name?) is worth the ticket price alone, but throw in Pharrell Williams’ produced booty-shakers Drop it Like it’s Hot and Beautiful and we approach hip-hop heaven.
The Doggfather took to the stage with four pole dancers.Credit:Wolter Peeters
The ultimate mixtape vibe is maintained by Snoop including several pop songs he’s been featured on, including a crowd-rousing California Gurls by Katy Perry, Calvin Harris’s EDM anthem Holiday and Wiggle by Jason Derulo.
Several cover songs are also dropped in, an uncommon feature for a rap show, but unsurprising when considering Snoop recorded the first hip-hop cover ever with 1993’s Lodi Dodi, a take on Slick Rick’s La Di Da Di.
Snoop delivers celebratory takes on 2Pac’s 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted and the Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize, signalling the once volatile East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry of the ’90s that resulted in the death of those icons is in the past.
He may have been banned from entering Australia in 2007, but by the time Snoop sings appropriate set closer Snoopy Don’t G”, it’s hard to imagine wanting the Doggfather to leave the stage, let alone the country.
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