Monthly Archives: August 2014

New Hugo Weaving Interview, Mystery Road Opens in UK, More on STC Macbeth; Hugonuts Photo Archive

Mystery Road Opens in UK;  New Hugo Weaving Interview

First off, apologies that there’s been such a gap between entries lately. Hugo Weaving continues his marathon run in Sydney Theatre Company’s audacious production of Macbeth, and reviews continue to appear as more audiences see the play, but the initial onslaught of new material has abated. Fortunately Hugo conducted a few promotional interviews for the Axiom Films UK release of his film Mystery Road; I posted the first of those, for Total Film, in the prior entry. An abbreviated version has surfaced online via Cover Media, bearing the somewhat absurd headline “Hugo Weaving Thanks Globetrotter Mom”, and removing the movie titles-as-questions gimmick. (For the record, Hugo’s family relocated many times throughout his childhood because his father’s job as a seismologist required it; his mother and two siblings were simply along for the ride. He has resided in Sydney since age 16. His father passed away a few years ago, but his mother is alive and well, and occasionally gives her own interviews and writes Letters to the Editor.) 😉

Anyhow, a second recent interview has now surfaced in The Observer; like the Total Film piece it’s tacitly meant to promote Mystery Road, but the film isn’t mentioned in the published version, which appears to be heavily edited (the questions aren’t even provided… I don’t think the interviewer called Hugo up and said “OK, we’d like a list of random observations and biographical factoids for our Things I Know feature.”) 😉 Clearly he was steered toward certain subjects and his answers truncated, as Hugo doesn’t tend to speak in soundbites. But what was published retains his typical self-effacing charm. I’m going to post the print version from The Observer, but the full interview was also posted online via The Guardian (and you can read other celebrities’ thoughts in their Things I Know archive). Typically, they picked the most potentially embarrassing or attention-getting sentence for a headline in the online version, but as least– unlike Cover Media– they didn’t make something up. And there are some new details about Hugo’s history of epilepsy, family life and interests that he hadn’t previously shared. (I’m now wondering which film forced Hugo to give up his meds– it could be Last Ride, Mystery Road or even Strangerland. I know he said in 2006 that he still took medication, though he’s been asymptomatic for over a decade.) Also, the lovely Francis Berthier portrait– taken at this year’s Berlinale– is unique to the print version. So here you go.


Looks a bit like George Carlin there, doesn’t he? Much more handsome, though, of course. 😉

For the record, Hugo has done tons of public appearances and speaking at various events over the years; in previous interviews he’s said he finds one-on-one interviews easier than big public events; he has made public appearances for various charities and (obviously) film promotion, but is reticent about being the “public face” of anything, and dislikes premieres, though he often attends those for his own films. And he served as Jury President for last year’s Sydney Film Festival, though he let the other panelists choose the prize winner against his personal inclinations. All of this meaning to say he’s somewhat shy and dislikes publicity for its own sake, but isn’t an anxiety-driven recluse. In group interviews– even those for Macbeth– he’s tended to let others dominate the conversation, but is thoughtful and articulate in giving his own impressions.

I should also emphasize that Hugo’s case of epilepsy isn’t typical (there are over a dozen basic syndromes and myriad variations within those, with many degrees of severity) so no one should stop taking their meds without consulting their doctor. Hugo apparently had a very mild form of the disease that abated over time. But, conversely, no one should go around feeling overmedicated either. So ask a medical professional you trust if you have questions in this area. Neither this column nor The Guardian’s is meant to diagnose or treat any symptom or disorder. 😉

Mystery Road has been positively received in most of its recent UK reviews; you can read the latest at Melissa Wellhem’s Blogspot, Film Reviews & News, Why Is Wilhelm Screaming, HeyUGuys, Loose Lips and Culturefly.


Axiom Films‘ amazing UK poster for Mystery Road

The UK Blu-Ray is released 27 October, with similar specs to the Australian edition; more details at Blu-Ray.com.

The US Blu-Ray for Mystety Road will be released 24 September by Well Go USA, but several DVD/Blu-Ray sites have troublingly listed a run time of “92 minutes”, a fuil half-hour short of the film’s original runtime. (The cut I saw at the Hampton’s Film Festival last fall ran 122 minutes, and I didn’t think a single one didn’t belong.) Blu-Ray News and Rock Shop Pop Forums provide other details. I’d love to hear from anyone connected to Well Go or the film itself about this running time issue, as I can’t in good conscience recommend a heavily-edited version of this film. (The UK version is uncut, by all accounts). I do love the US cover art, though.

STC’s Macbeth

Here are the latest reviews and fan photos; as always, I recommend clicking the links for full texts and sites of origin:


“So apparently it was Opposite Day at the Sydney Theatre tonight? #macbeth #stc #hugoagogo #theoleswitcharoo #isthisanauditoriumiseebeforeme #theatreseatingrepresentingthefeudalsystem” James William Wrong via Twitter/Instagram

Jemma Payne: ” Sydney Theatre Company’s Macbeth was the highlight of my year so far. I’m a huge fan of Macbeth/Macbeth in itself, so I was bound to go from the second I heard someone was doing it. The news that it’d be “inside-out” – the audience sitting on the stage, facing the empty house – only added to my excitement, but if I’m honest, also made me a bit nervous. The potential for awesomeness was matched only by that for gimmickry, and, sidling up like the third Weird Sister, the possibility that awesomeness would be neutralised in an effort to avoid gimmickry… However, it works pretty well and avoids all three pitfalls. The director, Kip Williams, uses the unique environment to set up an interesting spatiality…

In terms of relevance to the play, this spatiality is the most striking effect of the auditorium reversal. The sense of exile, scattering, and of a large kingdom (is the auditorium a kingdom ruled by an actor? Eek, the whole thing gives me that could-write-a-thesis-on-this feeling!) dovetails nicely with the play’s emphasis on the political chaos caused by the assassination of Duncan…

At various points the play is seemingly invested with some overarching directorial meaning – an effort to unify the production through an aspect of the text – at others more or less straightforwardly (though brilliantly, of course) acting the characters. This disconcerting alternation feels like it should be one or the other…

In general Mrs Macbeth (it made me think of that – Mrs Macbeth) is given much less prominence than is usual, in our culture and our stagings. The ‘Out damned spot’ scene becomes almost an intrusion on Macbeth’s agony. There is no doctor to medicalise Lady Macbeth’s anguish; even the audience is distracted enough to not quite appreciate it. The desensitisation and normalisation of her anguish harks back to the earlier focus on Scotland’s state of political and social disorder – and trauma…

But the other reason it’s a tad hard to focus at this point is that Hugo Weaving as Macbeth is so amazing. His Macbeth gradually takes on the Lady’s hysteria in a way that’s much more compelling to watch; indeed, almost to the point that you want to look away. Rather than an accumulation of mental anguish, each horror – Banquo’s ghost, Lady Macbeth’s death – strikes him anew such that there’s no recourse even to retrospection, only a visceral response to the latest happening…

The brilliant acting and interesting directions (however inconsistent in their execution) are what make this production much more than a cool new physical perspective on a big stage. Yet the development of the spatial dimension allows the unique space to be used in a focussed way, without gimmickry or the fear of it intruding upon the production… Hugo Weaving’s acting is absolutely sublime…  And the seating that the other patrons were complaining about? I kind of liked it. “


Hugo greeting fans post-performance.  Would love to credit photographer for this photo: please contact me if it’s yours! Recognize Sharon Cooper from earlier Instagram photo

Dean Thorne, Weekend Notes: “A powerfully dark and gripping tale about hubris, greed, and the madness of guilt; Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s classics and is brought to life in Sydney Theatre by a talented cast headed by the enthralling Hugo Weaving…

In hindsight, I regret not writing this article sooner as I was actually given pre-release tickets by my company (sponsoring the production) for the dress rehearsal. However, the production progressed with only one hiccup where Hugo Weaving had to ask for a prompt for one of his lines. Overall, as someone who rarely watches theatre but does love literature, I highly recommend this production. It is uniquely staged and features incredible acting talent…

The production, under director Kip Williams, is conducted in a more intimate setting. The audience will enter through a side door, with the regular seats in Sydney Theatre as the backdrop. Temporary seating has been constructed on the stage itself, and the actors live out their play right in front of the audience (I think someone in the front row even got splashed a little by the fake blood). The close proximity of the actors brings out every little detail, and enhances the acting…

You will literally feel Hugo Weaving’s presence as he begins to talk and move. He has an uncanny ability to capture your attention and never let it go as long as he is moving or talking. His charisma is truly brought to life and his emotion is palpable – he will suck you into his character and take you through the psychological journey of Macbeth until you forget that you are watching a play and it is not real life. His performance is quite simply astounding.”


Macbeth at Sydney Theatre Company #outdamnspot #gettingmycultureon #hugoweaving #sydneytheatreco #macbeth #motherfatherdaughterdate” Amy Porter via Instagram

Peter Wilkins, Canberra Critics Circle: “[Kip] Williams is obviously cognisant of how well-known is the dramatic tale of Macbeth’s fearful fall from grace; how familiar the text with its plethora of instantly identifiable soliloqies. His production unabashedly strives to jolt his audience into disconcerted attention, thrusting them from their complacent comfort zone and challenging them to sit in judgement of the unfolding tale. Narrow and largely uncomfortable tiered seating on the mainstage rises from the reduced performance space with the vast auditorium behind. To display his own inversion of his usual directrorial and storytelling practice, Williams also inverts the audience and his actors. Already, such brazen assault upon the Mainhouse convention demands an altered perspective on the action…

Throughout, Weaving’s Macbeth is a man possessed and obsessed. Melita Jurisic’s Lady Macbeth may act the catalyst, but Weaving’s noble hero corrupts at the prophesy of the witches and the sheer power of his performance gives full credence to his total usurping of the role of protagonist, allowing Jurisic’s Lady Macbeth to play the fragile strains of neurosis from the outset and cast her fateful trajectory towards the vale of insanity. Her twisted, tormented sleepwalking soliloquy reveals a more fragmented spirit as her feet turn upon a spot upon the floor. Here is utter degradation, lending plausibility to her impending death.  Hers is one of Shakepeare’s most challenging and elusive female roles and Jurisic makes it entirely her own, eliciting some sympathy for the woman whose loyalty and devotion sealed her irrevocable demise…

But it is Weaving’s Macbeth that towers above all expectation. His performance is riveting, charging inevitably towards utter degradation and defeat as he crawls in contorted agony to grasp the ankles of victorious Macduff, played with vocal authority and conviction by Kate Box. Williams’s decision to cast a mere eight actors may disturb conventional expectation, but it does create a strong ensemble, who serve Shakespeare’s simple plot with the storyteller’s art of engagement, mystery, suspense and resolution…

Sydney Theatre Company’s Macbeth is a director’s playground, allowing Williams and his company to tell a familiar morality tale afresh. The universality of Shakespeare’s commentary on immoral ambition, fate and consequence gives licence to a contemporary staging of a story that will contain for all time the eternal nature of the human condition. This production tells it as it is, simply, truthfully and with powerful allegiance to Shakespeare’s mirror up to nature. “


“Hugo Weaving (Elrond in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy & The Hobbit trilogy, Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy… #Epic”  Bradley7861 via Instagram

Matthew Esterman, My Mind’s Museum: “The Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Macbeth or – to those cast and crew most aware of its suspicious tendency towards the supernatural… The Scottish Play – had of course excellent performances. It naturally let Hugo Weaving develop from a successful but flawed hero of the sword-churned battlefield into the hollow-hearted villain we see on the battlements looking down on Burnham Wood. I truly wish I could have taken my English classes to this production so they could see a masterclass in lighting, props and the rest…

What was most confronting for me… what the audience was most likely chatting about before the dark held sway… was the backdrop. For in this production the audience was seated on the stage of the mighty Sydney Theatre – about 300 of us – close enough to literally touch a scheming Lady Macbeth or the man himself as he is seduced and enchanted by the prophecies of the weird sisters…

Those seats [of the empty auditorium] hold the potential being of future audiences as much as memories of past. An immeasurable well of humanity writhing in passion with the ideas flaring from the stage. Those seats make demands of us as an audience, as a society, and as individuals. Their stare eyeless at us, silently screaming for us to exist, to think, and to imagine.”


“Hugo Weaving #v#agentsmith#elrond#hugoweaving#sydneytheatre#macbeth” Cady Liang via Instagram

Huon Hooke, Hooked on Wine: “Weaving was entrancing, a great actor at the peak of his career, and the performance – directed by rising star of Australian theatre Kip Williams – was challenging, daring and triumphant. The audience was seated on sports arena type plastic seats on the stage, facing the empty seats opposite. We entered by a small side-passage…

The device was effective, making us more like participants in the drama than spectators. There was smoke – more smoke than I’ve ever seen in a theatre! – lots of gore, of course, and the intensity sustained by the cast of the actors, who had no interval in which to catch their breath, was impressive. The scene where Banquo’s ghost appears at the dinner table was very moving, Weaving’s tortured Macbeth truly extraordinary.”


“Mmmm theatre #Macbeth #thewharf #thetheatrebarattheendofthewharf #stc” Jo Finnis via Instagram

You’ll also want to keep an eye on STC’s Twitter Feed for daily updates on any new ticket releases; the show is formally sold out through September, but in addition to Suncorp Twenty, STC has periodically released a few tickets they’d previously kept under wraps. I also note any online re-sales of Macbeth tickets I find visa my own Twitter feed.

Also: Broadsheet profiled production designer Alice Babidge. And included some nice, big preview, rehearsal and production pics. Again, my undying thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts and photos. Unless STC decides to tour this production (or change their mind about filming/simulcasting) you’re all I have.

The Mule

With Australian and US releases slated for the coming months, the black comedy The Mule has snuck in a few festival screenings recently, including the New Zealand International Film Fest which garnered the following review (click links for full version). It’s next slated to screen at Fantasy Film Fest in Berlin several times 29 August through 12 September. Check their website for full details and ticketing info.

Review excerpt:

Ian, Films and More: “Angus Sampson, writer, director and star of The Mule does a convincing job of playing the passive, uncommunicative Ray and convince us that he is trying hard to avoid going to the loo for 7 days. Hugo Weaving has a ball playing Detective Croft, well outside official police procedure and John Noble is suitably creepy as the local crime boss. Georgina Haig as the lawyer plays well against Hugo Weaving’s crass macho posturing… Like The Castle, The Dish and Muriel’s Wedding; The Mule is an example of what Australian film makers do well – a funny film centred on a simple story staring ordinary people. 3.5 out of 5 Stars”

SBS highlighted The Mule in their list of anticipated Aussie films opening in coming months; they also shared this spiffing new still of Hugo Weaving’s charcter, Det. Croft:

The Hobbit

Not a ton of recent news on the epic final installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy, The Battle of Five Armies. The director has been lying low (probably deep into the final stretch  post-production and editing) since last month’s Comic Con appearance.  But there will be a new Air New Zealand campaign featuring characters from the film appearing soon; I’ll note that despite the ambiguous title, this video will highligh safe air travel, not the safe keeping of Hobbits. 😉 The video itself will appear in “late October”, probably around the same time as the first full-length trailer the way things are going. 😉

Also, fans of Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit and other WETA Workshop productions will want to check out their voluminous Design Studio Services archive, featuring dozens of concept art pieces connected to the trilogies and other recent films. One highlight is this illustration of Hugo Weaving as Elrond. The tag specifies An Unexpected Journey, but I don’t remember seeing that hawk, so one has to hope he’ll be included in the Battle of Five Armies. 😉

Strangerland

Kim Farrant’s film is currently amid second unit shoots in the Alice Springs region, according to NT News. The lead actors (Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes) aren’t involved, but the sequences being filmed include 50 local extras and depict the Special Emergency Services volunteers’ efforts to find the missing children whose disappearance forms the central mystery of the film’s plot . Cinematographer Chris Tagney has also included some photos and updates on his Twitter feed. The film is scheduled for release in “mid-2015”.

Hugonuts Photo Archive at Photobucket

I’ve finally set about to properly organize the decade (plus)’s worth of Hugo Weaving photos I’ve been storing at Photobucket since 2005 and make the properly annotated pics viewable to other fans. Though I’ve already shared these images via Hugonuts in most cases, I thought fans might like to see them without having to scroll through years of blog posts. It also gives me something to share (in addition to Flickr Print/Digital articles at that other archive) when I don’t have time or enough material for a full Hugonuts post. Also, it’s a way to properly organize and back up my photos for my own purposes– the current Photobucket archive is such a mess that it can take hours to track down a specific photo if it’s not recent. 😉 There isn’t much t the public annex just yet, but I’ll try to add new albums on a regular basis. It’s organized by year, and from there by event, film, or in some cases by photography session. You’re free to view or download anything you like, but if you reblog, PLEASE don’t decontextualize the image, ie repost without the photographer and source info. You don’t know how crazy I get when I see a heretofore unknown Hugo Weaving photo posted without ANY date, photographer or context info. It’s our responsibility as good fans to credit those who share their work (and take such great pictures of Hugo).   Anyhow, here’s the link to the brand new Hugonuts Photo Archive at Photobucket. Updates to this archive will be noted via Twitter as they happen.

Speaking of the Flickr Hugo Weaving Article Archive, I’ve recently added a vintage articles about Frauds (1993) from Cinema Papers and a more recent piece on Healing from Australian Wildlife Secrets in addition to the interview pieces featured here. I’ll be adding a classic 2002 Hugo interview/Two Towers article I’ve finally gotten a physical copy of (after a dozen years of searching) but it arrived slightly faded and scrolled, so it’ll need to be flatened out before scanning and retouching. But I can’t wait to share that one.

Finally, one last fan photo, of Hugo with a few young fans at Gallery New South Wales between Macbeth performances:


“Some of our students meeting Hugo Weaving @ the Art Gallery of NSW yesterday ” Corpus Oak Flats via Twitter

STC Macbeth A Night With The Actors, New Reviews, New Hugo Weaving Interview Promoting Mystery Road

Macbeth: A Night With The Actors

Sydney Theatre Company held its customary post-show Q&A session with the cast of Macbeth (A Night With The Actors) following the 11 August performance; the event was also live-tweeted; unfortunately, I had a prior commitment and was unable to follow the event live, but here are STC’s tweets in chronological order. Hugo Weaving and the full cast participated, taking questions from a moderator and the audience.


“The #AudiCentreSydney team and ACS customers were delighted to attend #Macbeth, starring #HugoWeaving.#Audinightwiththeactors #Sydneytheatrecompany” Audi Centre Sydney via Instagram

As always, if I come across/am provided with a more complete transcript of the event, I’ll share that when it becomes available.

STC Macbeth: The Latest Reviews & Photos

Macbeth’s extended run ensures that new reviews continue to appear day to day as more people are able to see the production. Most continue to be very positive about Hugo Weaving’s lead performance, and the audacity of Kip Williams’ inverted staging. The “uncomfortable seats” remain the least popular element; Those who take issue with the staging reversal are all over the place as to why they had issues, with some wishing more of the drama unfolded among the seats while some finding that aspect compromised.  Audiences are divided on Melita Jurisic’s angst-ridden Lady Macbeth, the different acting styles of some cast members (though all have a strong number of champions as well) and the “slow”, sedentary first act. I understand the reason for the latter in theory, as this production is as much about a group of actors being overtaken by the play as it is about the infamous characters. I’d have to actually see the production to gauge how effectively the gambit played out, though I admire most of what I’ve heard conceptually and have full confidence in Hugo’s abilities.

And this is where I’m going to once again beg the STC to reconsider filming and/or simulcasting their productions. They continue to somewhat blithely stonewall and condescend on this issue, giving the usual excuses that theatre is meant to be ephemeral and that film and theatre are inherently different media. While I’m not disputing either. neither holds water as an excuse. No one is asking for full-scale films requiring new scripts, sets and production design; we just want you to FILM THE PLAYS as staged, either for simulcast to cinemas (a la the UK’s National Theatre or New York’s Metropolitan Opera) or VOD paid streaming. No, this wouldn’t be as ecstatic as seeing the play in person, and couldn’t fully capture the essence of that experience. But it’s the only option for the vast majority of global audiences eager to see these plays, and can’t afford to fly to Sydney to see a play.

I am grateful that the STC tours some productions (including The Maids, starring Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert, which I’ll be seeing next week.) But they can’t tour every production, and certainly can’t tour any production worldwide: these are popular actors with many different demands on their time. Even fans within reasonable distance of some cities STC tours to can’t afford tickets that cost up to $250 (what I paid for mid-orchestra seats at The Maids– bought directly from Lincoln Center, by the way, not a scalper or ticket agency). Yes, there are often reduced-rate/student tickets or other last-minute bargain offers, but these are quickly snapped up and often require the buyer to be physically present at the box office first thing in the morning (which in a city like New York incurs a hotel or parking expense before you’e even gotten started) or aren’t nearly plentiful enough to meet demand. I’ve always thought it would be fun to see Shakespeare in Central Park, and the tickets are nominally “free”– but despite more entries in the online ticket lottery, I’ve yet to win. I know people trying to buy Suncorp Twenties tickets to Macbeth probably face similar odds.

I’m increasingly frustrated that I’ll have to miss what are almost certainly the most interesting, complex performances given by my favorite actor in recent years because I’m on the wrong continent and filming/simulcast options aren’t being taken seriously. Maybe there are legitimate cost-related reasons that aren’t being explained adequately, but every time I ask– or another person asks– anyone from STC about this issue, we’re given either no reason or flimsy, pretentious excuses about ephemerality of media by individuals who get to spend weeks or months involved in these productions and see them grow and evolve night after night (which is much less “ephemeral”). During an otherwise-fascinating pre-show discussion for The Maids at Lincoln Center, Benedict Andrews deflected a question about filming such an important production by saying he “preferred it as a play”.  Theatre has an elitist, difficult and remote reputation, and non-answers like these just increase that misperception by denying so many fans access. I will always see STC productions that come to New York or other US cities. But they need to meet me and thousands of others halfway when they can’t tour. I’ve heard that The Maids is so intricately constructed and thematically complex that one should see it twice. I’d love to, but can’t afford to… and the run is sold out anyhow. 😉

Sorry to go on about that, but I was provoked. 😉 Anyhow, here are the latest Macbeth review excerpts; I highly encourage you to click on the links and visit the sites of origin for the full versions. Interspersed are fan photos from lucky Sydney theatregoers who saw the production. Thank you all for sharing!


“#Macbeth with #hugoweaving !” Sharon Cooper via Instagram

Glenn Saunders, The Spell of Waking Hours: ” Played out against the vast backdrop of the (now-empty) Sydney Theatre, Kip Williams’ production emphasises the poetry and creates many arresting images in the moody darkness. And in many ways, it is one of the most human Macbeth’s I’ve seen, both in performance and in impact…

As soon as Hugo Weaving ‘enters’ as Macbeth, his voice rich and warm, gruff yet melodious, a certain stillness washes over the audience and you know there is magic at work here, if only it would find its feet…After a half-hour or so in which much of Act One passes with barely a fluctuation in pacing, we come to Macbeth’s “Is this a dagger which I see before me,” [II.1.40], and Williams’ production comes into its own…

The power of Williams’ production lies in the fact he is not afraid to create haunting images and let the text speak for itself, and create the fullness of the picture. Notwithstanding, some moments are lost in the vastness of the Sydney Theatre…  While Williams appears to have borrowed an aesthetic from Messers Stone and Andrews at times, he instead imbues it with heart and poetry, a moving theatrical grace, and each moment exists within this production’s world with a robust theatrical imagination and simplicity of stagecraft….

Alice Babidge’s design is theatre at its simplest, most pure form, allowing the words to speak volumes, and using only the most necessary props required to tell the story. Apart form a lavish banquet feast, hers is an empty stage (recalling Peter Brook’s famous volume) where magic and poetry happens, in flashes of inspired stagecraft and inspiration…

Hugo Weaving’s Macbeth, meanwhile, carves up the stage and delivers a menacing but tender portrait of Shakespeare’s popular tyrant. While he seems on occasion to rant, his voice is so captivating and sonorous, so rich and warm that from the first “So foul and fair a day I have not seen,” [I.3.39] you are hooked, line and sinker, caught in his net, dragged down with him into the very jaws of hell itself, and what a ride it is. You cannot take your eyes off him, as he strides about the stage in his blue jeans and shirt, delivering retribution and bloody execution on all and sundry. Weaving’s Macbeth is also the most affecting Macbeth I’ve seen; you actually empathise – and sympathise – with Macbeth the man, caught in his own (waking) dream as he is. His banquet scene is harrowing, so too is his seeing the witches’ apparitions, and he howls, sniffs, gnashes his teeth, trembles and tries to hide as best he can but to no avail – the horrors he has committed are as much in front of him as they are inside his head, and they weigh as heavily on us as they do him. By the time he fights Macduff at the climax, swinging his great broadsword around in the flashes of the strobe, we – like him – are exhausted, have been through the wringer with him; unlike Macbeth, though we may have been to hell, we are allowed to come back from its depths and leave the theatre at the end…

Kip Williams’ Macbeth is “bloody, bold and resolute,” [IV.1.85], and seeks the poetry in the darkness of Shakespeare’s equivocating tragedy. Although it takes a while to find its stride, once there it rages downwards, helter-skelter, on its blistering spiral trajectory, tearing at our imaginations, drawing us into his nightmarish world…”


“Saw Hugo Weaving in @SydneyTheatreCo Macbeth last night. What an actor! A corker of a performance. ” Catherine Henderson via Twitter

Jane, SYOP: “This is one of those evolving shows that the further into its season you see it the more fortunate you will probably be because by all accounts, the show I saw last week (and yes, it still feels like I’m sitting in a very crowded economy class flight) is not the show people saw when it opened… There’s something to be said for director Kip Williams if he is taking feedback on board and constantly tweaking this show. It tells me that he is not precious about criticism and is open to the possibilities of how this show might theatrically be stronger and better…

The emptiness and stillness of the first Act was replaced by the spectacle and flourish of action, heightened by blinding fog and voices in the murky soup of the stage. The highlight came for me when Banquo’s (Paula Arundell) ghost sits at Macbeth’s table. Weaving’s breakdown as Macbeth was raw and confronting and it was there the intimacy of the contrived staging was a piece of magic…

Williams’ seems to have stripped ‘Macbeth’ of any humour. This version is dark and ghostly. It’s like watching a dream sequence. There’s something ethereal and ephemeral about it unfolding right in front of you, moving past you and yet, you’re not there. You are the empty seats, sometimes filled with the players (who is audience and who are we in this play?) and then they and we are gone. His vision encapsulates the temporal experience of theatre and we are at the heart of it in this experiment with proxemics.”


Our Sydney Correspondent Yvette’s (@LyridsMC) post-performance photo of Hugo, with her gift of vintage wine glasses 4 August

Suzy Wrong, Suzy Goes See: “In the process of art-making, it is often the spirit of experimentation that elevates a work to heights of significance and esteem. Major theatre companies around the world with greater access to funding and other resources do not always prioritise innovation in their repertoire, often choosing instead to deliver entertainment that their patrons would readily embrace. The decision to stage a version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth with a prominent actor in the title role, exemplifies the kind of tension that exists where a show’s anticipated mass popularity and the expectations that come along with it, threatens the commitment to artistic risk, in the trepidation of alienating audiences or indeed, underestimating their ability to relate to unconventional interpretations…

Kip Williams’ direction of the piece reflects an awareness of the diversity in his audience’s tastes. Shakespeare is left untainted and the celebrity actor is given ample room to flex his dramatic muscles for his legions of fans, but the stage is thoroughly explored around those prerequisites. Williams gives the crowd what they have come for, but also offers up fresh concepts and unexpected flourishes that prevent the production from ever appearing unoriginal or unambitious. Williams’ vision does not rewrite the 400 year-old play, and neither does it add significantly to its themes and ideas, but he uses the text to explore the nature of the art form in all its physical and emotive possibilities.” (The author promises the full review ion the next issue of Auditorium magazine) .


“At @SydneyTheatreCo for The Scottish Play #Shakespeare #selfie with #HugoWeaving” Suzy Wrong via twitter/Instagram

Episystemics: “Saw Macbeth tonight with the STC, Hugo Weaving starring in the main role.  We were sat on the stage for this production, looking back out at the empty seats of the Sydney Theatre, which was quite the experience.  Very good production, I thought.  Weaving was excellent.”


“Guess who I got front row tickets to see? Dis guy. #Macbeth #HugoWeaving #theatre #SydneyTheatreCompany #bless” Georgina Holt via Twitter/Instagram

Theresa Willsteed, A Book and a Good Lie Down: “Macbeth at the Sydney Theatre Company grips you in its thrall, and doesn’t let go until the final sword falls to the ground and all the slaughter’s done. The eight actors – Paula Arundell, Kate Box, Ivan Donato, Eden Falk, John Gaden, Melita Jurisic, Robert Menzies and Hugo Weaving as Macbeth – engage at every second…

It’s theatrical and elemental. A sword drags on earth, shining rain falls, and mist, ‘fog and filthy air’ gust through. The language sears with clarity, the characters are vividly present, and our imaginations are constantly engaged. We’re around the ancient campfire, engrossed as the story unfolds. A witch zanily appears after an actor slams his face in a cake and looks up, snarling. An empty crown held up suggests all the horror of Macbeth beheaded at the play’s end…

Hugo Weaving’s Macbeth is a sturdy warrior, complex, all too human, masculine, unpredictable, unstoppable. He compulsively resists and responds to his wife’s hellish advice and kisses. He cries like a shocked child at his first awful murder. He goes on to order more killings like an old hand at terror, with women and children among the victims… He physically recoils from and fights off Banquo’s ghost (and his own guilt-madness). He’s shocked into profound paralysed silence at the news of his wife’s death. And finally, he’s a tyrant in battle, fighting for his life, a soul ripped apart by its own darkness…

Weaving takes you right into Macbeth’s disintegrating humanity. His transformation from returning hero to feared and isolated despot is riveting – you can’t look away, you’re with him until the end. His Macbeth is haunting, bursting with life even when distraught with fear. As he changes from tough soldier to thuggish murderer, he changes physically too, still battling, but more and more weighed down by his crimes…

It’s the darkness at the heart of the drama that makes it both horror story and tragedy, and keeps you thinking about this play and production for a long time after…It’s reminded me of how vital Shakespeare is to us. There’s no missing it when you see a production like this. He knows pretty much everything about us. The riches he gives are so much more than a ripping good story with a satisfying end. ”

THIS JUST IN: STC has posted a lovely compendium of supplemental Macbeth material, including student guides, trivia handbooks, new production and rehearsal photos and other resources for the curious. Here’s a small sampling of the treasure therein:


Brett Boardman’s Macbeth production photos (plus next two) via STC’s Macbeth Resources


Macbeth rehearsals Photo: Grant Sparkes-Carroll, STC Macbeth Resources

Mystery Road Interview, Reviews, UK & US Distribution

Total Film published an unusual interview with Hugo Weaving for the promotion of Mystery Road’s UK opening (29 August); it features the somewhat gimmicky conceit of using questions entirely composed of movie quotes. Fortunately Hugo’s answers are so natural and charming that the whole thing works. Here’s my scan:

So yes, Yvette, he’ll definitely be using those wine glasses. Might even dance afterward. 😉 I’d love to see a full transcript of this interview, if one exists: i have no idea if Hugo’s answers were edited from a longer interview in which the format was explained to him, or if he did so via phone or email, filling in answers at his leisure. There are some oddball segues, like discussing his childhood travels in response to the old Dirty Harry bit of sarcasm “Do you feel lucky?” 😉 There are some aspects of his life– like that– which he’s developed concise methods of talking about over the years, but he always adds something completely new and delightful without getting too confessional.

Mystery Road opens 29 August in the UK, distributed by Axiom Films. The US distributor Well Go USA has finally announced a release date for the DVD/Blu-Ray: 14 October. I’m still hoping for a theatrical release here, but have to say it doesn’t look good though VOD and cable are likely in the future. Mystery Road deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible, so if you missed its festival screenings or Australian release, try to see it at whichever friend owns the largest HDTV setup. (Or maybe your own? Lucky you. Expect calls from Hugo fan friends in your area.) 😉 Anyhow, you can see the pre-release box art at Ace Showbiz. Gotta say I much prefer the sepia tone box art to the garishly-hued US promo posters, though the laconic Aussie poster featuring Aaron Pedersen is probably still my favorite. Amazon is taking pre-orders, but as always, do shop around. No specifics on the DVD extras yet, but I’d assume they’re comparable to the Australian release.

You can read reviews of the film at The Edge UK and Total Film.

In Other Hugo News

Craig Monahan was interviewed by the New Zealand Entertainment Podcast, promoting the NZ release of Healing.

Cat fanciers in the Hugo fandom (ie probably the majority of the Hugo fandom– Hugo himself is a longtime cat owner) will want to check out Cats on Film’s post about Proof and its feline star Ugly The Cat. Some interesting trivia: in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s original screenplay for Proof, published in 1991, Ugly has a larger role, is adopted by Martin and is seen in many additional scenes at Martin’s house.

Tim Winton’s The Turning recently re-aired on ABC (Australia); Australian viewers can now watch individual segments on iView.


Two photos from Rene Nowytarger’s magnificent photo session for The Weekend Australian’s Macbeth cover story.  (Newspix) Nine more below:

…more to come! 😉
(All above photos: Renee Nowytarger/Newspix)

Hugo Weaving Rumored To Act In Anand Gandhi Project; Latest STC Macbeth Reviews & Pics

It’s been awhile since a new Hugo Weaving film project has been announced (probably because Hugo has been rather busy lately, and will be through September)… but plausible rumors have surfaced connecting the actor to Indian director Anand Gandhi’s next project, set to film early next year. I do qualify these reports as “rumors” so far because neither Hugo nor his management have confirmed them, and no official press releases have appeared indicating a contract has been signed, but unlike the Star Wars rumors from earlier this year, I do take these seriously. Hugo Weaving met Anand Gandhi at last year’s Sydney Film Festival (not Melbourne International Film Festival, as some sources erroneously report), and both served on the festival’s jury panel, with Hugo presiding as president, though all indications are that he didn’t exert much authority in the post, allowing three other jurors to award the main prize to a film he couldn’t bring himself to praise. (I suspect Gandhi was another dissenting voice in this selection, though he wasn’t interviewed like Hugo was.)

Weaving was effusive, however, in his praise for Gandhi’s film Ship of Theseus, which screened at SFF 2013, calling it  “[A]n absolutely rare and profound piece of cinema, full of wonder and enlightenment. Anand Gandhi has proved himself as a groundbreaking filmmaker” . (He later presented the film in its 2013 Australian release.)  Gandhi also mentioned discussions with Weaving and the SFF in a June, 2013 article in India Link: “I was just telling my friend Hugo Weaving, my friend and co-jury member here at Sydney,  that if we have the leisure to dream and imagine and invent, we also have the responsibility to do something interesting and thoughtful. If I have privileges, I must put them to good use.”  Later, in the press release for Ship Of Theseus’ Australian run with Hugo on board as presenter, he added, “”Hugo is one of the finest actors in the world, and one of the most amazing people I have had the privilege to meet. It’s such an honour that he is now presenting the film in his country.”


Hugo Weaving and Anand Gandhi, as 2013 Sydney Film Festival jurors, at screening of Ship of Theseus 11 June 2013  (via SFF Facebook)

 

Fast forward to the current rumors, having explained why I find them very plausible. The first report surfaced in The Mumbai Mirror’s online edition yesterday, and this source has been quoted in all subsequent online reports in Bollywood Life,  and American Bazaar Online. (All Indian English-language online papers… proving Hollywood and Australian entertainment sites only report on unconfirmed projects or rumors involving huge-budget American movies.) 😉

Here is the critical bit of The Mumbai Mirror’s story: “Revealed a source close to the development, ‘Anand had met Hugo during the Melbourne International Film Festival and Ship of Theseus left the actor awestruck. The two had discussed the possibility of collaborating back then, but nothing was finalised. Hugo was recently presented with the idea which he liked.’

Confirming the same, Anand told Mirror, ‘Yes, I spoke to Hugo recently and gave him a lengthy narration of a character I’ve written with him in mind and a brief of the script that I’m still in the process of developing. He loved the idea and has given me the go-ahead.’

Anand is tight-lipped about the details of the project, but said it will be a big-scale period-drama. The director intends to start once his next production, Tumbad, releases.”

While I’m always skeptical of unnamed sources, The Mirror did apparently do its homework and ask Gandhi directly. The error confusing SFF with MIFF is repeated through all subsequent versions, though American Bazaar Online did provide correct details about Sydney in its own reporting. (I suspect a lot of people simply copy/pasted the Mirror quote without checking its content… and frankly that’s not the important part of the story so long as the Anand Gandhi quote is accurate.) Gandhi hasn’t yet officially confirmed the project through his Twitter account or Blogspot site (though both have tons of thought-provoking content well worth a look).

So, though the project isn’t officially confirmed, it’s probably safe to qualify it as well beyond the rumor stage.. I’m being extra cautious because a lot of indie projects Hugo has been connected to over the years have either fallen apart in the planning/funding stages or for some other reason been delayed (Healing, Strangerland) or canceled (Eucalyptus). It sounds like Gandhi has specific plans for a shooting schedule and a script in some stage of completion. So this is in the same category as Glendyn Ivin’s next film One Foot Wrong in that there’s a stated intention for the participants to collaborate and a script, but not an official green-light or press release. Yet. But, given the health of the Indian film industry (though they can be as risk-averse as Hollywood regarding experimental films) I would bet Gandi’s project films before Ivin’s. Just a guess. I’m very eager to see either.  The suggestion it’s a period piece makes me worry– slightly– Hugo might be cast as some sort of Imperialist English Bastard (ie the typecasting that beset his early career)… but Gandhi probably has something more complex in mind given how multifaceted and category-defying his work has already been. (You can watch a gallery of his short films here. Alas, Ship of Theseus hasn’t been widely distributed in the US despite global festival acclaim, but region-free DVDs with English subtitles are available.)

New STC Macbeth Reviews And Pics

Reviews for STC’s radical reinterpretation of Macbeth continue to be largely positive, though individual critics liked and disliked different aspects of the production. Sydney Theatre Co finally posted a generous gallery of Brett Boardman’s production images (though curiously not ALL of them– a distance shot of Hugo in a shower of glitter and the beguiling shot of him brooding in the empty theatre seats, which I posted to the previous entry, are absent). But STC did include a few previously unseen shots, larger versions of images posted in reviews, and different versions of some images (different ratio or cropping) so fans should definitely take a look. I’ll be adding a selection between the latest review quotes as well. As always, do click on the links for sites of origin, as most of these are well worth reading in their entirety.


Hugo Weaving as Macbeth  All official production photos:  Brett Boardman via STC Facebook

Stephen Romei, The Spectator: “[STC’s promotion of this production] says this is Hugo Weaving’s Macbeth, and no one who sees this innovative, intelligent and thrilling production could accuse the promoters of false advertising. Weaving may not have been born to play the Scottish kingslayer but at 54 he’s certainly grown big enough for the role…

In the opening scenes, where we hear of the Thane of Glamis’s battlefield deeds, Weaving sits off to the side, luring the eye in hulking silence. Finally he delivers his opening line on the bewitched heath — ‘So foul and fair a day I have not seen’ — and from that paradoxical and melancholy moment we are bound to this violent, confused and frightened man. It is a performance of utter psychological complexity: Weaving has thought hard about this terrible and largely inexplicable character and the result is an interpretation full of insight and humanity.

That Weaving commands this show is no slight to all else involved. He is a bona fide movie star and to our good fortune his present interests are the theatre and small-scale Australian films. For good recent examples of his work in the latter, see The Turning and Mystery Road…

Director Kip Williams has taken some risks which by and large pay off. The most dramatic is an inversion of the Sydney Theatre space: the audience is seated on the stage — where there is room for only 360 — and the action unfolds against the disconcerting emptiness of the 900-seat auditorium. Boldy, Williams rarely uses this vacated space…

Director Kip Williams has taken some risks which by and large pay off. The most dramatic is an inversion of the Sydney Theatre space: the audience is seated on the stage — where there is room for only 360 — and the action unfolds against the disconcerting emptiness of the 900-seat auditorium. Boldy, Williams rarely uses this vacated space…

Weaving’s sonorous delivery makes every line count. The combination of the authority of his voice and his imposing physical presence charges even relatively minor speeches, such as when he walks almost into the audience to muse darkly about young Malcolm: ‘Stars hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires.’..

The small cast — only eight actors — necessitates a lot of doubling, which is not my favourite thing. I suspect people who do not know the play well may find it confusing at times. And while I have no problem in general with women playing male characters this is a play with questions of manhood at its core and I did have some difficulties with Paula Arundell as Banquo and Kate Box as Macduff. I accept that their femininity can be seen as emblematic of the civil and political order Macbeth is slashing and burning — but then I wonder just how orderly things were anyway. Isn’t the world of Macbeth short and brutish — and dominated by brutes — from the outset?..

This is a Macbeth that starts a bit slowly and builds powerfully. As Weaving has said, it ‘moves like the clappers’. Director Williams guides this runaway freight train of a play with great art and skill. The star himself may have found the role of a lifetime (though I’d also love to see him as Coriolanus). I’m sure it’s not as lucrative as being a big elf in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth but I wager it’s a lot more satisfying.”

(You can also read Romei’s insightful Macbeth preview/interview of Hugo Weaving and Kip Williams here.)

Jo Litson, Scene and Heard: “Weaving does not disappoint, giving a passionate, compelling performance, but the production itself waxes and wanes somewhat…  It looks like a rehearsal room and when the actors appear casually dressed in contemporary street wear and begin performing seated at the table under a general lighting state, that’s exactly what it feels like. It’s a slow start…

But as Duncan lies dead, the production starts to hit its stride. The actors bang their hands on the table, Max Lyandvert’s visceral sound design picks up on the drumming and amplifies it tenfold, the stage fills with fog, the lighting changes and we’re off…

There are some other wonderful effects – the sudden fall of a black curtain not far from us, isolating Macbeth from the world beyond, for example, and later Macbeth strobe-lit in battle. There is also an extended fall of shimmering “rain”, which inevitably recalls the golden shower in Benedict Andrews’s production of The War of the Roses in the same venue. But, no matter, it’s incredibly beautiful and very effective…

Under Nick Schlieper’s lighting, the auditorium does become a haunting, ghostly backdrop. Williams doesn’t stage many scenes there but those that he does work well… Many liked Williams’ restraint in not using the auditorium too much; I liked what he did with it but felt he could have used it a little bit more…

Weaving gives a magnetic performance that focuses on Macbeth’s interior torture. He spits and snarls as he gives physical and emotional expression to the conflict that rages within him between vaulting ambition, doubt, fear, ruthlessness and fleeting regret. His anguish is utterly palpable…

As Lady Macbeth, Jurisic is so febrile and intense from the start that she almost leaves herself nowhere to go. Like Weaving, her vocals are rich and mellifluous but in starting at such a pitch, some of her dialogue is lost by the time she plays the mad scene…

In the end, however, the production – which runs a tight two hours without interval – is set around the mesmerising performance of Weaving. The back-to-front staging doesn’t make any strong comment on the play but proves to be an atmospheric backdrop and Weaving’s performance is thrilling.”


Hugo Weaving, Robert Menzies and Melita Jurisic

Tegan Jones, The AU Review: “This adaptation would be special simply by having such a veteran powerhouse gracing the stage, but there is much more to this production than an impressive name attached to it. The play, as well as the role of audience members and players are subverted by having the former seated on the stage with the actors. Before a single character arrives you are left to gaze into the sheer majesty of the auditorium. The usually filled seats lie empty, eerily staring back at you. If nothing else, it more than establishes the ambience of the performance…

Once the play begins, it becomes immediately obvious that it’s going to be quintessentially minimalistic. Characters are clothed in modern clothing that borders on dull and the few props that surround them are used multi-purposely… Initially, all of these creative choices makes it seem like you’re witnessing the first read-through or perhaps an early rehearsal, as opposed to the finished product… and yet, it works…

Being stripped of context and costumes enables the audience to become truly immersed in the story itself, because there is literally nothing else to focus on besides Shakespeare’s words and the performances of the actors. There is nothing that they can hide behind, which only highlighted how truly talented the ensemble truly was. I have no qualms with admitting that it was the best performances of anything that I’ve ever seen. Weaving was an inspiration as the doomed Macbeth. Any words that I use to describe his command of the stage would be doing him a disservice. However, I will say that watching him fall into insanity was a disturbing pleasure. The cast that supported him were also incredible, and I often found myself being mesmerised by Lady Macbeth (Melita Jurisic) and Banquo (Paula Arundell)..

I urge anyone who gets the chance to see Macbeth, to do so. It has truly reinvigorated a classic that will knock the breath out of Shakespeare fans and newcomers alike. We don’t normally do scores for theatre reviews on the AU, but if we did, this would be a FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE) performance.”

Dee Jefferson, Time Out Sydney: “When STC announced that its Macbeth would reverse the space at Sydney Theatre (the audience on stage; the actors in the auditorium), one assumed they had some dramaturgical purpose in mind – some way in which this concept would elucidate or recast Shakespeare’s play…

As it turns out, that’s not really the point in Kip Williams’ production – although arguably, putting the audience on the stage positions us to throw our lot in with the actors (per the final act: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more.”)…

Still: the novelty of the experience and the way that Williams and his design team have used the space is so visually striking and dramatically effective that you can’t grumble. Heck, there’s a chase sequence around the stalls, and it’s fun…

The simplicity of the staging throughout throws Shakespeare’s gorgeous poetic language into relief, and gives his gothic imagery – bats and blood, supernatural phenomena (Floating daggers! Witches! Visions!) and atmospheric events – plenty of room to breathe. One quickly realises that this is a play worth seeing for the language alone…

Some of the cast deliver their lines better than others: predictably, John Gaden, a veteran of the stage, shines here – he speaks Shakespeare’s language as though it were his native tongue, and his natural cadence better allows the interpretation of each phrase’s meaning. Menzies and Weaving also know what they’re doing, and are a pleasure to hear. Melita Jurisic, a wild-haired prematurely-unhinged vision of Lady Mac, delivered less intuitively on the night in question (Monday July 28), and many of her lines seemed almost indecipherable by comparison…

Once you get over the surprise – it’s not a play amongst the seats; it’s not a star vehicle for Hugo – this emerges as a strong, satisfying, gimmick-free production in which Shakespeare’s text shines brightest.”

(You can read Time Out Sydney’s Macbeth preview interview with Hugo Weaving here.)


Hugo Weaving and Melita Juisic

Claire Hanson, The Conversation: “Director Kip Williams has inverted the traditional theatre space: audience members enter through one side door and take their rather uncomfortable seats on what would be the stage/backstage of the theatre. In the program notes, Williams claims that ‘it is space that has conjured story’…

Beautiful, clever lighting (by lighting designer Nick Schlieper) generates different moods for this seating space; at one point a faint blue lighting picks up the tops of the seats, which glint almost like water at night. The production sticks predominantly to the main stage space, but gradually and tentatively unfurls a little across the theatre…

The seating achieves a mirror effect which is simultaneously aesthetically pleasing and a little disconcerting. We are always reminded of ourselves as spectators, and this meta-theatrical tone suits the play. As Weaving’s eponymous protagonist reminds us:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing…

 

Weaving’s performance is captivating. In particular, his pacing is wonderful to behold. He has a habit of pausing and running on at unusual points, which keeps a listener’s interest.

While the space contends for attention, all else is designed to focus on the exploration of Macbeth’s inability to cope with the situation which he tortuously creates for himself. Weaving moves from a crumbling, terrified wreck, screaming and flailing on the floor in fear of Banquo’s ghost, to callously murdering the pregnant Lady Macduff and her young son…It’s an interesting portrait of a deeply unhappy and weak man who swings from one extreme to another, creating his own situation and then bemoaning his helplessness; he lashes out violently then reflects bitterly and deeply…

This introspective focus on Macbeth’s personal failings comes at the expense of the witches, their supernatural aids, and the role of the supernatural more generally in the play. The witches suffer a significant loss of power and agency in this production…

The production has moved the sense of the mysterious unknown usually conjured by the witches into [the] physical forces of fog, wind, and glittering rain. These are tied far more closely to Macbeth than they are to the supernatural…

This production is focused on exploring two things: that strange space of the theatre, with its eerie emptiness and its always fleeting occupations of space, and Macbeth as an isolated, introspective man…”


Love a last minute #invite to a #culture evening. My treat tonight, watching #hugoweaving at an incredible #performance of #macbeth at the #sydneytheatrecompany #stc #sydney #therocks #walshbay #australia” Photo: sandyshakes via Instagram

 

N. Gregory Finger, Dinner And A Show Blog: “Well, we’ve long been calling for the STC to take greater risks with their staging, and it seems that in director Kip Williams they’ve finally found the man for the job. Anyone who saw his rendition of Romeo and Juliet last year will remember the breathtaking spectacle that he was able to achieve; but whereas Romeo and Juliet was done on the epic scale, Macbeth is on the intimate. But therein lays the genius of this production. Because it is on the intimate level: the usual 900 seat capacity of the Sydney Theatre is here only a third of its usual size and the main stage has been reduced down to a narrow platform, putting the audience right up near the action. But behind it rises a vast and empty auditorium, creating a cavernous space as a backdrop. Just like the ‘poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage’ we are reminded that each of our lives are played out in a confined sphere, while behind us looms a much larger world and society that encompasses us; and when someone is in the public eye, like a politician or a king, it passes judgment as well. Williams’ inverted stage invokes these feelings…

Hugo Weaving plays the title role. Weaving’s Macbeth is simply brilliant – he is human, volatile, and vulnerable. Weaving produces beautiful moments of tragedy; as he settles on Banquo’s ghost for the first time a collective shiver runs down the audience’s spine. When he hears of the Queen’s untimely demise, Weaving does nothing, and in doing so, we see everything.  It is a pleasure to watch an actor of such calibre flawlessly execute one of the meatier roles in Shakespeare…

Unfortunately, Melita Jurisic misinterprets Lady Macbeth. Jurisic denies any sexuality embedded in the role; there is no chemistry to speak of…  Both leads are supported by a solid ensemble. Made up of Kate Box, Ivan Donato, Paula Arundell, Eden Falk, John Gaden and Robert Menzies, the cast weave their magic and prop up the many characters found within the Scottish play. However, there needed to be greater lyricism and clarity in their Shakespeare. The exception to this is Gaden, a veteran, who speaks this text with natural cadence…

This is that very rare thing: an exciting and well thought out and executed piece of theatre. For those of you with tickets that are yet to see it you should not be disappointed.”

Mystery Road

While we await US distribution (likely to be mostly VOD/DVD.Blu-Ray focused at this point, alas…) there are more specifics available for UK DVd/Blu-Ray issue; Axiom films has the UK rights and plans a 27 October release, according to Blu-Ray.com. No details on the home video extras yet, but I assume they’d be comparable to last year’s Australian package. Axiom also lists a 14 August theatrical release on its website, though I suspect it’ll be limited to arthouses.  But I commend Axiom on at least releasing it to cinemas at all… I suspect US audiences who missed last year’s festival screenings won’t even get that much. Please prove me wrong, Well Go USA! Also, Foxtel plans on a VOD release in Australia later this year, according to Mystery Road’s Facebook page.  Finally, there’s a positive new review up at Electric Sheep Magazine.

Manny Gets Censored

If you’re in the Washington DC area next month, Manny Gets Censored, a short film narrated by Hugo Weaving, will be playing as part of the DC Shorts Festival as part of Showcase 4 (since the film is only eight minutes long, it’ll be screened as part of an 8-film, hour and a half block). If you’re not able to attend in person, the festival does have an Online Festival component allowing access to all 100+ festival shorts; alas, only those buying tickets at DC-area box offices will get the very-reasonable $15 price for this access; all others get a rather steep charge of $35. However, the DC Shorts website does feature a generous gallery of free online short films from past years’ festivals, so patience might eventually pay off if $35 for eight minutes of Hugo narration is a bit much. (If the other short films scheduled sound promising, that might balance things out a bit…) Also, the film now has a Facebook page which should update if additional screenings or online viewing opportunities become available.

The Hobbit: the Battle Of Five Armies

No major breaking news (or production diaries) at the moment, but every time a new random still of Hugo in elf armor turns up, it automatically generates a lot more online buzz that anything I’ve just discussed. One reason I’m putting it last; someone has to offer a little perspective. 😉