‘The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society production of Macbeth’ is a play in the series by playwrights David MacGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr. This most successful production is at the Koorliny Arts Centre, 60 Sulphur Road, Kwinana with shows starting at 8.00 pm at the weekends until 3rd March. There is a Sunday matinee on the 26th March at 2.00 pm.
Kwinana Theatre Workshop is the venue for the annual production by the fictitious Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society. This year they are about to perform Shakespeare’s esteemed Scottish play, hopefully filled with heart stopping action and drama - but don’t build your hopes up. As you can guess, a group that chooses such a clunky name is unlikely to have any talent. Don’t expect a serious Shakespearean performance, this is shambles is pure slapstick fun.
The house lights dim, and a head pops out between the unlit curtains. It is Mrs. Reece (Penny Ramsell) leader of the Farndale troupe of actors. She shouts for a spotlight without success. She disappears behind the curtain, the light comes on. A voice shouts ‘The light is on’, it goes out and Mrs Reece tries again. Eventually the light and her appearance coincide. She thanks us all for coming to see their latest production of ‘Hamlet’ – another cry from backstage corrects her ‘it’s Macbeth’. So begins the disastrous production of Macbeth.
Just as the curtain opens, stage manager Henry (Don Lee) bangs a nail into the proscenium arch with a sign saying ‘No Smoking’. Seated at the side of the stage, George Peach (Mark Thompson) warmly welcomes us all to this opening night.
The three witches (Pam Brown, Claire Ashcroft, Kharlee Hamel) start their creepy opening lines, when they realise that the set has been erected facing the wrong way. They are facing the backcloth and the audience are behind them. The curtains close and George entertains us whilst the set is corrected.
Macbeth (Mel Sklenars) was played with power and authority; no one was going to get in the way of this diva’s performance. One person did, and casually got smashed in the face before being pushed off into the wings. At the last minute, the stage manager is given the task of playing Lady Macbeth, a part that he didn’t want, but he tried hard to convince the audience of her nasty streak whilst internally crumbling himself.
As Macbeth strutted and plotted the downfall of Banquo (Rach Hayter), Banquo warmed up for the clash by doing a Highland sword dance. The incompetent Mr Plummer (Peter ‘Pear’ Carr), who only managed to develop his skills by the final act, supervises the whole performance.
As you will appreciate, the show is heavy on silliness and slapstick, no pies in the face, but a frustratingly disorganised show. I have seen a couple of the Farndale plays and have to admit that I cringed on hearing a directing talent such as Paul Treasure had decided to direct the ‘Farndale Macbeth’. However, I am glad – even grateful - that he did, the whole humour came to light and at last I have seen what the writers were aiming for.
In this style of play, the demands upon the actors are high. Each has to play an eccentric, inept member of the theatre group, who in turn is playing a serious character in the play. With actors missing, they often have to stand in for another cast member, a triple performance.
The biggest fault is usually that the portrayal of the bungling, incompetent actor is overplayed; as a result the whole thing looks staged. The incompetence should flow in a manner that makes the actor look as though they are trying their best, but remaining innately useless. A mere hint that the futility is false and the humour will disappear instantly.
Occasionally you get an actor who can perform this multitude of tasks, give clear definition to their characters, but in this production every single actor was spot-on. Like a magician who can make a complicated trick appear so simple, the cast convincingly blundered through the performance. It took a few minutes for the audience to realise that the incompetence was meant, and then the laughs flowed freely.
The lighting and effects (Mal Neilson) were tricky but successful. Difficult props to source, so congratulations to Kat Ramsell and Kaitlin Brown on their achievement.
This was an extremely difficult production to make work, however it was filled with fun. Well done.
A bold and brash musical – with big hearts and beehives – will make Limelight Theatre’s stage come alive this June.