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Posts Tagged ‘Hugo Weaving’

This David Greig play is based on Polish writer Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 Sci Fi novel. It’s been made into a film three times, in Russian, then Polish, and by Hollywood in 2002, but this is the first stage adaptation.

Solaris is an ocean planet, with no land, and we’re on a space station orbiting it, studying it. The two year mission is coming to an end when psychologist Kris Kelvin arrives by shuttle to find Commander Gibarian has died of cancer. She also learns of strange goings on suggesting the planet is intelligent. It appears to be probing their memories, thoughts and feelings and sending in clones of significant people from their past, and soon after her arrival her old flame Ray turns up.

It transfers to stage surprisingly well; we don’t get many Sci Fi plays. I was a bit irritated by so many scenes, with a screen lowered between them, as we moved back and fore between locations on the space station, but otherwise it held you in its grip, particularly in the second half, which unfolded like a thriller. We hear from Gilbarian on video (Hugo Weaving, no less) within the space station and sometimes see the ocean on video between scenes, a bit disorientating front stalls!

The sex of Kelvin has been changed and Polly Frame plays her really well. Ray is in many ways a tougher role which I thought Keegan Joyce navigated very well. Jade Ogugua and Fode Simbo complete a fine cast. It’s great to see an international co-production from three great theatre cities with Edinburgh’s Greig writing and Australian Matthew Dutton directing. Too late to recommend it as I didn’t make it until the penultimate day of the short London run, but good to record its success.

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Continuing my never ending, and I suspect pointless, search to understand Beckett with the Sydney Theatre Company’s Waiting for Godot at the Barbican Theatre just six weeks after seeing their Endgame in Sydney, also with Hugo Weaving. At three hours, it’s my longest Godot, but it’s also probably the best.

Each production finds something different and this one is funnier and crueler. It’s set in some huge abandoned industrial landscape. Vladimir and Estragon pass the time over two days waiting for Godot, interrupted only by two visits from the blind Pozzo and his dumb ‘slave’ Lucky and two from a boy bringing a message from Godot that he won’t make it until tomorrow. They feel a sense of achievement when they fill time successfully and a sense of hopelessness when they don’t. The attempted diversions are many, but time still drags them down. We see the warmth of companionship and friendship along the way, but pointlessness and despair predominate.

There is much more physicality to the performances, whether it be the pantomime of removing and replacing shoes, changing hats, falling down and picking themselves and others up or the poor treatment of Lucky. They use the vastness of the stage well, but occasionally sit on the front providing intimate moments too. It’s funnier but it’s also more desperate. It seemed more full of contradictions, more expansive and more poignant. Director Andrew Upton suggests it’s creation was particularly collaborative as he had to take the helm at a late stage and somehow you really felt that.

Unlike The Elephant Man last week, but like Endgame six weeks ago, this is no star vehicle. A lot of people are clearly there for Weaving, and he doesn’t disappoint, but they get four fine performances and a much better, if obtuse, play. I’m used to seeing Philip Quast in musicals, so its a treat to see him give such a terrific performance as Pozzo. Richard Roxburgh is Weaving’s equal and the chemistry between them is palpable. Luke Mullins makes so much of Lucky, lurching around the stage and almost falling off twice.

For once my front row cheap seat was a bonus, giving me a close-up view of such thrilling acting. I’m not that much wiser, but it was a theatrical feast nonetheless.

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