Monthly Archives: June 2015

#STCGodot Ends London Run (Incl Hugo Weaving Fan Pics), Strangerland, Between A Frock & A Hard Place

Waiting For Godot Ends London Run


Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving in Sydney Theatre Co’s Waiting For Godot, London Barbican production   Photo: Alastair Muir/Rex

Sydney Theatre Company’s Waiting For Godot, starring Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Philip Quast and Luke Mullins, ended its widely-heralded run at London’s Barbican on June 13, but accolades and wonderful new photos (many from fans who attended performances) continue to appear. I’ll repost as many as I can here, with links back to original sources in case I’ve missed anything. In the case of fan photos, I’ll include their original captions. Most of the reviews of the production were quoted in my previous entries, but I’ll add any new ones between photos; the actors were universally praised, though a few critics found the production didn’t completely jibe with their interpretation of Beckett. (Some had a very elitist tone that implied anything which might appeal to a mass audience somehow misinterpreted the playwright’s intentions… as if he intended for a play about the existential despair of two tramps to appeal to only wealthy academic poseurs who reflexively quote Aristotle’s Poetics.) 😉


Hugo Weaving, Luke Mullins and Richard Roxburgh in #STCGodot  Photo: Alastair Muir/Rex (plus next four)


Hugo Weaving, Luke Mullins, Richsrd Roxburgh and Philip Quast

Terry Eastham, Londontheatre1.com: “Going to be really honest now. When I left the opulence of the Barbican’s theatre I was genuinely confused as to what I had just seen. There is no doubting that the production itself is superb. The magnificent Barbican stage seems to be small and very intimate thanks to Andrew Upton’s staging and Nick Schleiper’s excellent lighting of the post-apocalyptic looking set brilliantly created by Zsolt Khell. And the acting itself cannot be faulted. Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh extract every ounce of personality from Vladimir and Estragon, being so comfortable with each other that even the silences between the characters don’t seem forced or wrong but the sort of silence that good friends can have without feeling the need to fill the vacuum with some fatuous comment…

So, nothing to fault on the production but I really wasn’t sure about the ultimate meaning of the play which, I have to say left me feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. Doing some research today, apparently I am not alone in this. Every nuance of the play is open to interpretation by the audience and this really is a show where every single person watching will have their own highly individual view of the message of the show. Heading home, my companions and I came up with separate interpretations involving dead people, blind dates, wormholes through space and a whole host of others…

Ultimately then, “Waiting for Godot” is an amazing production that three hours after the lights first go down will leave you scratching your head and thinking about it for a long, long time to come.
5 Star Rating”

[CJ: Personally, I find ambiguity and “head-scratching” to be a good thing. Thinking about a play over days– or even years– keeps it vital in a way that a pro-forma production that can easily be described in a sentence might not. Fairly certain Beckett wasn’t thinking about wormholes, though…] 😉


“Hugo Weaving #hugoweaving #waitingforgodot” Momeetsstars, via Instagram


“Not the best photo ever, but I’m happy with it. #stagedooring #hugoweaving #waitingforgodot” Hein, via Instagram


“Waiting for Godot. Utterly moving every single time. And starring Elrond as Vladimir, and Javert as Pozzo? BEYOND WORDS. #WaitingForGodot #theater #London #HugoWeaving” ecaterinaaa via Instagram


“And then it’s night once more. Adieuuuuuuu #Vladimir & #Estragon & #Pozzo & #Lucky #STCGodot #STCOnTour” Lauren Dodds via Instsagram/Twitter


“#SamuelBeckett’s beautiful #minimal seminal #postmodern #existential and #absurd #play #WaitingforGodot at #Barbican #theater with #HugoWeaving #playdate @daliakra @joe_robots” Elaine via Instagram

Limelight Magazine and Absolute Theatre include more of those Review Roundups.


HUGO WEAVING!! I’M SHAKING AND CRYING!!!!” Elise via Twitter (both photos)


“#stcontour” Tim McKeough via Instagram
“brilliant and amazing show #hugoweaving #waitingforgodot” Sarah Chen via Instagram


“Met Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh after their incredible performance of Waiting for Godot at the Barbican!” Marcus Higgins via Twitter


“Me and Hugo Weaving, London,💜💜 aftrernoon. Exeptionnel” Sandrine Destraz via Twitter (plus next two photos)

Artist Mark Winter describes his efforts to have Hugo sign two of his sketches featuring the full cast and Hugo solo at ChicanePictures. These are amazing work (see below), probably as good as Nicholas Harding’s rehearsal sketches, though of course done without the benefit of Harding’s access. 😉 I addressed the whole controversy about autographs and why Hugo might sometimes abbreviate his in the extended tangent below, but I do think it all comes down to timing; Hugo regularly waits until the last minute to enter the theatre and often tries to evade autograph seekers entirely when there are large crowds. He also routinely abbreviates when doing group signings (as at Comic Con in 2010– an event he has said he didn’t particularly enjoy– or film premieres, which he tends to enjoy in inverse proportion to the size of the crowd and the scale of the film. 😉 ). I’ve gotten full signatures when there weren’t as many people around; Hugo tends to be more relaxed and willing to converse or pose then.


Sketch, the Godot cast and their autographs.   Mark Winter via Twitter


Hugo Weaving as Vladimir in Waiting For Godot plus autograph Mark Winter sketch, via Twitter


“#HugoWeaving I really really really love him.11 flight hours and jay lag is worthy,only because of his play. ” Mimo via Twitter, plus next four photos


The Godot cast take curtain calls  Photo: Mimo via Twitter

“Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” #london #theatre #godot #beckett #sydneytheatre #sydney #uk #hugoweaving #richardroxburgh #barbican #amazing” Klara Došlov via Instagram


“Met my hero #hugoweaving while going to see #waitingforgodot ” Lowdown via Twitter


“Hugo Weaving and me” Belegilgalad on DeviantArt

There’s a wonderful Spanish-language account of seeing Godot and the post-show Q&A at Londres en Espanol complete with some lovely photos (see below); fans who missed out on meeting Hugo or getting an autograph can again take solace in the fact that they were far from alone.


L to R: Luke Mullins, Hugo Weaving, Philip Quast. Richard Roxburgh, moderator and Andrew Upton at Godot cast Q & A 9 June. Photo (plus next 3 photos) Londres en Espanol


Roxburgh and Quast sign for fans


Richard Roxburgh

Godot and the touring production of The Maids (starring Cate Blanchett) are prominently featured in a report on STC’s burgeoning profits and renovation plans, at The Sydney Morning Herald. The Daily Telegraph has already included the production on their list of 2015’s Best Plays.

Finally, uberfan Rossetton G shared a mother lode of fan photos of the production and cast signings, these are but a few. You can see the full set here or on her Twitter feed.


Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh Godot autographs (original photo: Lisa Tomasetti)  This and next photos: Rossetton G via Twitter


Luke Mullins and Philip Quast


Quast (supine) with Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh


Curtain call


Hugo signing after the show


Rossetton with Richard Roxburgh (above) and Luke Mullins (Below)

On a more frustrating note, it seems the situation with professional autograph hounds/sellers and paparazzi interfering with fans’ ability to get autographs was as bad or worse in London than it was during the New York run of Uncle Vanya in 2012. While many were lucky enough to have Hugo sign their memorabilia and pose for photos, many others missed out because either Hugo was mobbed by the “pros” en route to the theatre, because he felt overwhelmed or due to time constraints. In Washington DC (Uncle Vanya, 2011) there were security precautions in place to ensure only ticketed theatregoers could approach the stage door. There Hugo and other cast members (with the exception of Cate Blanchett) would often stop and chat with fans and sign or pose for photos. The crowds usually weren’t overwhelming and were unfailingly polite. In New York, this setup was impossible and the cast were usually mobbed both en route to and leaving the theatre. Autograph hawkers would present Hugo with STACKS of glossies from The Matrix, LOTR or Captain America and expect him to sign multiple copies which would clearly then be hawked on eBay. I really couldn’t blame him (or Cate) for finding alternate exits to the theatre, though this short-changed genuine fans of what in some cases were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Hugo hadn’t performed in an STC production in London (or Europe) before Godot, and the run was slightly longer than a week, meaning there would be exponentially many more fans waiting for their opportunity to meet him or have him sign.  I wish the theatre had some sensible security measures in place to prevent the “pros” from crowding out real fans, but I understand that sort of thing is logistically difficult. In New York, especially on Broadway, it’s impossible, as many stage doors open directly onto main streets/sidewalk; there are usually a few barricades put up, but very little in the way of crowd control, and certainly no way of controlling who has access to the actors, who are often forced to either spend a huge amount of time attending to a vast number of people (many of whom, as I’ve said, aren’t there to see the play), to sign a few autographs for people lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time right next to the security barricades (and short-change many more) or flee to their waiting cars immediately, either as the fans watch or via an alternate exit. None are optimal solutions, and even successfully keeping the “pros” at bay might not solve the problem, especially if there are a lot of ticketed theatre-going fans and a limited number of stage door opportunities.

During the 2013-4 run of “The Other Godot” featuring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart on Broadway, the actors got out the word that only play-related memorabilia would be signed, and this helped. (I noticed it was a stated policy for this run of Godot as well, though many fans ignored it.) There was also a ban on requests for photos with the actors, though people were free to take photos OF them: my boyfriend took some great photos as I got my autographs.) In that case the stage door opened right onto the street next to the theatre entrance, making it very easy for everyone in the theatre to immediately line up behind the security barricades the moment a performance ended. I was “lucky” enough to have seats near the rear of the orchestra which allowed me to get in place quickly, and was lucky enough to get signed by all four actors. Sir Ian and Billy Crudup (who played Lucky) in particular were astonishingly generous with their time, signing for pretty much everyone who asked. (As far as I know, Crudup might still be dispensing hugs and signatures outside the theatre.)

Patrick Stewart signed a few dozen autographs then quietly disappeared, disappointing many fans.  He seemed less comfortable with this aspect of fame, a feeling I know Hugo shares, though he’s wonderful and charming to fans when there aren’t quite so many of them. Stewart also “shorthanded” his signature into a barely-legible scrawl, something Hugo is doing a variation of (just signing “hugo w”, though at least this can be readily made out.) I’m sure this is done to save time when there are huge numbers of fans waiting their turn. I don’t think it’s anything personal or makes the signature less “valuable”… if you’re getting the signature for any other reason that to have a cherished keepsake of an artist you admire (or an event you enjoyed), frankly you’re part of the problem.  By that I mean I don’t know or care whether variant versions of Hugo’s signature have different values on eBay or the like. I have always discouraged fans from buying these, as fraud is rampant, and because each legit autograph obtained by a “pro” means one less signed for a fan who actually attended the performance and may have waited years. I do know professional autograph collectors/sellers perversely find inscribed items somehow less valuable, to the extent they’ll sometimes hack off an inscription to a fan from an item then slot the signature into a frame with a generic photo. Real fans would of course find an inscribed autograph the most precious keepsake of all.

I’ve been lucky enough to have Hugo sign for me a few times. I say “lucky” because he’s dodged me and others a few times too… though this can be gutting when it happens, I don’t blame him in the least. I admire Hugo’s modesty and lack of interest in fame for its own sake, so I understand why the notion of signing for dozens of people every night– a number of whom are just having him sign “marketable items” connected to his most famous roles, for resale– might give him pause. As fans, we don’t have a “right” to autographs. It’s a privilege we’re sometimes granted, but actors deserve their privacy and space too.

As for what advice I’d have for other seeking autographs, I have a few suggestions, but there are no guarantees; as I keep emphasizing, it all comes down to luck. But it helps to attend more than one performance for a play, as this increases your opportunities to get signed. Try to attend less-busy performance nights (I usually try for a Tuesday) rather than Friday/weekend evenings which will be busier. (This may fluctuate based on a theatre’s schedule: most US productions are dark Monday with nightly performances Tuesday through Sunday and matinees Wednesday and Saturday (or Sunday in some cases). Don’t expect to get signed on the last night of a performance, as there are often cast parties and celebrities in attendance who’ll be granted extended backstage access. Even if an actor leaves via the stage door in these cases, he may well be exhausted. If you’re attending on a day with two performances, try for the earlier one for the same reason. but be aware the actors may be pressed for time in either case, and in some cases might not even leave the theatre. Don’t breach security, don’t approach the actors on their own time (I did once get signed when Hugo was entering the theatre, but I felt a bit dodgy about the whole thing).

If permitted, have him sign something unique which has personal meaning to you, but is NOT connected to his most famous work, ie so he’ll know it won’t be resold, and that you’re aware of his entire career, not just the odd franchise. (I had my loveliest response from Hugo when I had him sign my DVD of Last Ride.) If the venue posts rules about what can be signed, or whether or not actors will pose with you, abide by them. I’m often asked about gifts, but have never tried giving them; in New York in particular security can be strict about that sort of thing. The best anecdotal stories about actors receiving gifts involved handmade or particularly creative/unique items. Finally, allow for the possibility of failure and understand that it’s nothing personal. There many actors who’ve creatively dodged my every attempt to get an autograph (Cate Blanchett springs to mind; she signs sparingly if at all. Many actors have no-autograph policies.) Your emphasis should be on enjoying the work– the play, film or whatever you’re there to see– rather than on bagging that autograph. And keep trying. It’s good to have long-term goals or dreams. I waited over 20 years (and saw many plays) before I got signed by McKellen and Stewart, then got signed by both within 30 seconds of each other, then it was all over. 😉 It was as amazing as you’d expect, but you can’t harbor dreams of extended conversations or of an artist intuitively understanding just what he’s meant to you over all these years.

As always, my eternal gratitude to all the fans who shared their photos and stories. It made for a wonderful vicarious experience for all of us who couldn’t be there in person.

Strangerland

Kim Farrant continues to do most of the publicity for Strangerland in its Australian release, and has given many in-depth, thoughtful interviews on her process of making the film, You can hear/read these at SBS (also features three short scenes from the film), ABC Radio Brisbane, Junkee, Community News, Foxtel Screen, Rip It Up, Eff Yeah Feminism podcast, Film Ireland,

The most in-depth discussion of the film is probably a fascinating 35 minute conversation at Ben Mizzi’s Screen Director Podcast. The article which gives the most attention to Hugo’s contribution is at The Australian. (Print version here.) ” ‘Knowing him as a person, we both realised this part of him doesn’t get seen on screen,’ Farrant says. “Hugo’s often portrayed on screen as this villain, a cold, aloof man and he’s actually very sensual and beautiful and loving and sensitive, so it was: ‘Yes, let’s cast him!’ ”

Farrant discusses her future projects at Inside Film: one hopes she doesn’t fall into the trap of so many directors who come to the US either to be treated shabbily (as was Rowan Woods) or downgraded to tedious franchise gigs (too many to count.) Yes, I know the US media considers a director to have only “made it” when they get that Marvel franchise gig (or the equivalent) but I strenuously disagree. 😉

You can hear positive or leaning positive audio reviews at ABC News Breakfast Here are quotes of text reviews with links back to sites of origin:

Glenys, The Ponder Room: “Set in hot outback Australian the imagery is beautiful, think Picnic at Hanging Rock, which Farrant explained was one of her influences…

Strangerland is a slow burn. It explores a mothers anguish, our perceptions of people with diminished mental capabilities, and what happens when secrets are kept. It’s always good to watch Weaving at work and this was no exception. Kidman appears suitably vulnerable as a women suppressing her own demons. The young cast of Maddison Brown, Meyne Wyatt, Sean Keenan and Nicholas Hamilton suggests that the future of Australian film is in good hands.”

***

Michael Bodey, The Australian: “Kim Farrant’s Strangerland is a cool whodunit and character study featuring charismatic performances from Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving. Joseph Fiennes’s turn as the absent husband is a handbrake on a moody film, though.”


Hugo Weaving as David Rae in Strangerland, from the film’s press kit

Alex Doenau, Trespass Magazine: “Australia is a big country, with the capacity for many stories. Some of our finest stories have been brought to the screen courtesy of Nicole Kidman, and this time she has swapped BMX Banditry for desolation of the soul. For the most part, it works…

Strangerland is a movie that comes down to its performances, essentially filling in a blank slate of relatively anonymous Australian countryside. The fundamental question of why a family that wanted to avoid attention moved to an area small enough that everyone would be at least familiar with them is never addressed, but Kidman and Fiennes still manage to do well as a troubled couple precisely because they never quite work together…

Kidman’s performance is varied, but in a way that complements the film and the character. Sometimes she seems to be literally sleepwalking in front of the camera, and that actually suits the themes of the film, which she has to shoulder herself…  The other standout is Weaving, continuing his streak of well-chosen character roles in Australian films. The most rounded and approachable character, Weaving is also the touchstone for the film’s barely explored racial issues, which largely manifest as obvious red herrings…

A stirring portrait of a couple that should possibly have never been together, Strangerland is an uncomfortable experience that works because of its scattered pieces not quite fitting. A daring debut that hypnotises as it obscures its core truths, and proof once more that Nicole Kidman is an asset to any country’s film industry.”

***

Cara Nash, FilmInk: “There’s no doubting that Farrant has a gift for mood, building a sense of dread, isolation and gaping sadness that threatens to swallow everyone whole. Strangerland is a challenging watch, but it’s also wholly compelling, and that’s largely owing to the superb performances across the board. Kidman is in fearless form as Catherine, a woman wracked with pain, guilt, self-doubt and a desperate need for connection – whether that be with her emotionally cold husband, the town’s empathetic cop or her wayward daughter, who she questions how much she is like. As always, Weaving is solid as an inherently decent cop trying to navigate his way through increasingly complex moral territory, while one feels Fiennes’ Matthew may implode because of all the repressed rage he’s carrying around…

The idea that the Australian outback is a dangerous and unknowable landscape is one that has populated many a local film, and while Farrant introduces ideas about the spiritual connection to the land of indigenous people, these ideas are never fully fleshed out. The filmmaker, however, bravely refuses to offer any type of closure – which is fitting given the many heartbreaking, haunting questions her central protagonists are left to live with. ”


Hugo Weaving, Joseph Fiennes and Nicole Kidman

Glen Falkenstein, Film Ireland: “Farrant’s focus on Catherine’s feelings of grief and hopelessness drove much of Strangerland, resulting in an eerie, disquieting and all-round consuming tale of two estranged parents coping with the loss of their children. The performances from Weaving and Kidman in particular were practiced and immediately impactful. As the characters steepen into fear, panic and at times hysteria, the very visceral racial and sexual tensions between the characters came to the forefront, resulting in several tense and confronting sequences. No small part of the film, the relationship of both Indigenous Australians and the recent arrivals to the land played a crucial role, driving much of the dramatic tension.”

***

Andrew Nette, Pulp Curry: “What makes Strangerland innovative is its portrayal of female sexuality, both Lily’s and her mother, Catherine’s, which is unflinchingly rendered and is something you won’t see very often because of the hot button issues it touches on. As part of this, Farrant puts a new spin on the how the parents deal with their grief over the missing children. This involves her examining a shadow side of female emotion that is seldom talked about, let alone put on the screen…

Strangerland also excels in depicting the sense of frustration and desperation faced by the parents and the police at the prospect of having to search for two missing children amid the huge expanse of inhospitable countryside. The way the camera pans and sweeps over the desert and gorges is both beautiful and terrifying. Farrant is also to be congratulated for eschewing an easy plot resolution in favour of something much darker.”

***

Glenn Dunks, Writing: “Kim Farrant’s Strangerland is deeply, uncomfortably Australian. In many ways, it goes right to the heart of the country as a family infiltrate a place that is unfamiliar and even hostile to their arrival. A family, all of whom hold secrets and potentially criminal pasts. They could have been dressed up in Colonial costumes and set 150 years ago without much of a narrative alteration, which is probably much the point of Farrant’s debut feature. How our convict pasts have manifested as a society that turns on its own as much as the other…

Most of all, however, Strangerland reminded me most of all of the early features of Peter Weir. The aura of Picnic at Hanging Rock’s lingering natural menace mingled with repressed teenage female sexual awakening hovers heavily over this new film albeit in a more narrative-focused way. Weir’s The Last Wave, a film that has challenging ideas over the role that one of Earth’s oldest civilization and their subsequent genocidal mistreatment might play in our way of life, is also evoked although Farrant doesn’t go quite to the extent of that film’s chilling, apocalyptic ending…

Despite the power of that particular scene and the performance of Kidman that crescendos in the dying sunset of the film’s final passages, Strangerland’s final act is still somewhat bungled in terms of its pacing. Hardly a new issue with Australian film as Farrant is clearly trying to leave a lasting impression of mood rather than a satisfying narrative conclusion, although the promise of the previously raised concept of mysticism isn’t fully delivered upon either. Likewise, the character of Lily is clearly one that we’ve seen before, most prominently in Rachel Ward’s Beautiful Kate (this could almost be a sequel), although her naff teen poetry is comically on point (“Their marriage is a farce / such a pain in the arse”, for instance). Still, I found so much to admire in the glowing, dusty cinematography of P.J. Dillon, Keefus Ciancia’s haunting music and the performances of Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Lisa Flanagan that I didn’t mind much at all. I was deeply impressed by Strangerland and likely for many of the reasons that others have not.”


Alternate poster for the film’s Australian release

Bernadette Pierce, The A and B Film Podcast: “Many critical reviews of Strangerland cite a lack of focus and believable character development and while watching the film I too found myself longing for certain aspects of the story to be focused on in lieu of another story that invokes the dangers, mysticism’s and history of the Australian outback. Reviews have also been critical of the ‘distracting sexuality’ in the film, Farrant has stated that she wanted to look at ways that people deal with extreme emotions, in particular those who use sex as a way of dealing with those emotions. The Parker women use that primal desire and act to cope with varying degrees of apathy, loneliness and for Kidman’s Catherine – the fear and grief she feels regarding her missing children and as the film progresses, her uncertainty about her husband. Perhaps how you respond to these character actions will depend on your own life experiences and propensity to use irrational or even self-harming coping mechanisms. I found the portrayal of sexuality in the film to be interesting, unsettling and honest.”

***

I’ve added the full Strangerland press kit and a couple of stills featuring Hugo to my Flickr Hugo Weaving Archive. And here are my scans of a Sydney Film Fest brochure:


Much larger version here.

Between A Frock and A Hard Place

The new, 21st anniversary documentary about the making of one of Hugo’s most important films, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, aired tonight (June 18) on ABC in Australia. The film features interviews from the cast, including Hugo (you can see a brief but delightful sneak peek below), narration from Terence Stamp and an exploration of the film’s cultural impact, and the LGBT rights struggle in Australia that made it possible. There are a lot of wonderful reviews and discussions of the film; you can read a few at The Guardian (includes some trivia about the film), Out In Perth, The Australian, Daily Review/Crikey, news.com.au,  and TV Tonight. International viewers never fear, the film will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray early next month. You can order it at JB Hi-Fi but it always pays to shop around. (JB does often have the best price, but not always.) Bear in mind this is a Region 4/PAL presentation, so you’ll need the appropriate region-free hardware or player if outside Australia. (The cheapest option is the VLC Player, which is a free download and is my go-to for playing virtually anything my stand-alone player or other software barfs on.)


30 second promo of Hugo Weaving’s interview from A Frock and A Hard Place, via ABC-TV, YouTube

Here are some great archival images that have appeared in conjunction with the documentary:


Hugo Weaving discovers Mitzi in the makeup trailer  Photo: AACTA via Twitter


“#throwbackthursday Interviewing Hugo Weaving, Stephan Elliott and Terence Stamp ahead of the release of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, September 1994” Angela Bishop via Instagram; read the rest of her account of interviewing the cast back in the day here.

The Dressmaker

A couple of items on Hugo’s late 2015 film The Dressmaker, directed by old friend Jocelyn Moorhouse (Proof) and costarring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis and Liam Hemsworth: producer Sue Maslin and author Rosalie Ham discuss the project with RMIT (The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology),   and Maslin addresses the problem of a lack of women in the film industry at Panorama at syn.org.au.

The Latest STC Godot Reviews, New Pics of Hugo Weaving & The Cast; Strangerland News & Reviews

#STCGodot Continues Well-Received London Engagement


Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh in Waiting for Godot at London’s Barbican  Photo: Tristram Kenton for The Guardian

Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Waiting for Godot starring Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Philip Quast and Luke Mullins continues to receive overwhelmingly positive notices as new photos (both from professional photographers and fans) continue to appear. I’ll post the latest review excerpts interspersed with these photos, some of which were taken at a cast Q & A following the June 9 performance. All fan photos are shared with their original Twitter or Instagram captions, and all material includes links back to original sources; as always, if you have time, the reviews are well worth reading in their entirety.


L to R: Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins, Hugo Weaving & Philip Quast     Photo: Tristram Kenton for The Guardian

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian: “Sydney Theatre Company’s revival, directed by Andrew Upton, turns Beckett into a performance, playing on the idea of theatre, and the pair as a dystopian Laurel and Hardy stranded in what is both clearly a theatre but also an apocalyptic industrial landscape. In Zsolt Khell’s design the back wall of the theatre also suggests the silhouette of a distant blasted city…

This is an evening that is clear, intelligent and boasts real chemistry between Weaving (bearded and unrecognisable from his roles in The Matrix and Lord of the Rings) and Roxburgh. There is something of the big brother, little brother in their relationship, one full of irritations but also an unspoken protective affection as if Weaving’s Vladimir understands their predicament but also knows that they must go on. Will go on. Because that is all they can do. Until darkness falls…

We are always in safe hands here, hands that you might describe as tender in the way they revere Beckett… The vastness of the space creates a sense of our insignificance in the universe, but nonetheless there is a lack of intimacy, even when this Vladimir and Estragon come and sit on the edge of the stage and talk directly to us while simultaneously being unaware of our presence…

It’s a lovely touch in a revival that gropes at the idea that even when we are together in a shared space we are always completely alone and that even as we speak to fill the silence we are smothered by it.”


“Over the moon #matrix #lordoftherings #elrond #hugoweaving” Dave Simon via Instagram


“The wait’s over. Finally got Godot thanks 2 fab STC prod. As @kylieminogue said Beckett’s about nothing & everything. ” Kathy Lette via Twitter

Marianka Swain, The Arts Desk: “…Weaving and Roxburgh join the pantheon of great double acts inhabiting these roles, and, like recent occupants Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, stress the vaudevillian nature of the clowning duo. There’s an affectionate intimacy to their interactions: Weaving’s elegant Vladimir catching the hem of rash Estragon’s coat in a practised gesture, like a parent holding back a child from danger; Estragon accidentally mounting him when grappling with Lucky. They share a playful patter that speaks of long experience, exchanging words out of habit rather than to communicate…

Yet the warmth elides some of the distinctions between the two, making them more of a unit than a study in co-dependent contrasts, and occasionally renders this once famously subversive piece rather too comfortable. Thankfully, the symbiotic supporting pair, characterised by an otherworldly physicality, offers a memorably dark mirror; from their arrival onwards, the play’s desperate horror and loneliness become easier to locate. Philip Quast’s bullish Pozzo enters bent backwards almost at right angles as he leads with his expansive midsection, booming voice an overt overcompensation while playing the role of dominant partner. At the other end of the rope, Mullins’ skeletal Lucky judders with each ragged breath, his resting pose a gravity-defying lean, and his commanded movements infinitely strange: cartoonish scuttle on tiptoes, fluttering hands, wild gesticulation as though revving a chainsaw. His bravura monologue is precisely modulated and chillingly dehumanised…

Nick Schlieper’s remorseless lighting is used to great effect, switching instantaneously from harsh steel to engulfing inky blue when night falls. Upton’s production as a whole stops short of plunging us into the abyss, but it does draw a beautifully humane portrait of the connection and comic diversion we crave to keep darkness at bay.”


“Great review in the Metro this morning! Huge congrats and i cannot wait to see it tonight!! @sydneytheatreco #stcgodot #stcontour @silviacolloca @colmeen #london #barbicancentre #excited #richardroxburgh #hugoweaving” Jessica Walton via Instagram


“Finally got to see The Sydney Theatre Co’s production of Waiting for Godot last night…..incredible! Just a wonderful production. I was lucky enough to be able to ask a question at the post show talk to #richardroxburgh and get an autograph. Best. Night. Ever. Thank you so much. See you again on Friday and Saturday! @sydneytheatreco #stcgodot #stcontour #barbicancentre #amazing #richardroxburgh #hugoweaving” Jessica Walton via Instagram

Ian Shuttleworth, The Financial Times: “Weaving uses a comparatively posh Anglo-Australian accent as Didi, whereas Richard Roxburgh’s Gogo is far more audibly an Ocker. It works well with Beckett’s script: Estragon often seems much dimmer than the reflective Vladimir but here, while Didi still has the intellectual edge, he is regularly punctured by Gogo’s larrikin bluntness…

As with the McKellen/Stewart production, the pair are here located in the ruins of a building rather than unsheltered on a blasted heath; even the tree on Zsolt Khell’s set seems sturdier than usual and sprouts three whole leaves between the first and second acts. It has been a few years since Philip Quast’s last appearance on a British stage; here, his musical-theatre lungpower stands him in excellent stead as an appealingly bombastic Pozzo. Luke Mullins as Lucky is what my blessed mother would have called ‘a big drink of milk’, and I mean this as a compliment.
“Waiting for Godot #sydneytheatreco #hugoweaving” Jess Scott-Young via Instagram


Photo: Candace Brown/Candace in the UK via Blogspot; her account of the performance/Q&A: “I was first exposed to Waiting for Godot last fall in my Irish/English Postcolonial/War Literature class (it was that long of a title, but I’ve probably butchered it.) with Dr. Maren. That first exposure of reading through it was like carving the front of a sculpture and not the rest. Discussing it in class carved out more of the sculpture on the sides, but it wasn’t quite finished. Watching it live last night with HUGO WEAVING as Vladimir, one of the main characters, completely freed the sculpture of my interpretation of Waiting for Godot!…

The question of this play is whether we should cry or laugh as we watch this sorrowful, cyclical plot spiral the main characters deeper into their own despair at the life they have. Vladimir and Estragon live sort of comical lives in their awkward, ‘dancy’ movements and gestures. Estragon’s replies to Vladimir always seem to be sarcastic or merely deprived of hope. For example, when Vladimir (Hugo Weaving- I mean- HUGO WEAVING) would ask Estragon to say, ‘We are happy!’, Estragon would consent, pause, then say, ‘What do we do now that we’re happy?’…

The audience laughed, but that moment was so telling of the general mood of the play. The setting is a destitute, dystopian landscape, and the main characters are clowning around like Charlie Chaplin! Happiness comes out in the small moments, like laughing at a truly awful day because it’s just uncommonly bad. The audience took every opportunity to laugh at the play because those opportunities seemed that every comical moment was the last of its kind. I believed that they laughed because of the way we live life. We tend to stay ‘on the surface’, and watching a play where the characters ‘tiptoe around the abyss’, as Richard Ruxburgh (Estragon) called it in the interview following the play takes us into the unknown waters of complete and utter despair. We stay away from the big questions of life because they interfere with tea time and our daily newspaper read, but this play pushes your head under water and lets you come up for comical air ever so briefly…

After the play was over, we waited to watch an interview with the cast. Our group moved up to the front row! The visual designer talked about how he worked with the actors to come up with their interpretation of the play. He discussed the fact that the humor is there in the play, and it’s all about tapping into that humor and letting it come out naturally. The actor who played Pozzo [Philip Quast] talked about the rhythm of the play being one mixed between humor and sorrow, and throwing off that rhythm in one extreme or the other takes away the plays magic. HUGO WEAVING talked about how Richard and he were told 5 years ago to be ‘Didi and Gogo’ in this play because of the way they masterfully pulled off a somber scene in a play [STC’s Uncle Vanya] in 2010.

In other words, this play is complete because it is both a funny tragedy and a tragic comedy. It’s in a healthy balance of ‘tiptoeing around the abyss’ and Charlie-Chaplin-esque humor, which makes for bittersweet entertainment. “


“Waiting for Godot with Hugo Weaving 🙂 #london #theatre #play #barbican #barbican #waitingforgodot #hugoweaving” Annsherry Wang via Instagram


#HugoWeaving #WaitingForGodot #Barbican I had to ask 3 times before he looked in the right… ” Aisling Selvakumaran via Instagram

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard: “For its International Beckett Season, it is inviting companies and performers from around the world to share the Nobel Laureate’s bleak and powerful wail about existence. The centrepiece of the three-week festival is this superlative production from Sydney Theatre Company, starring Hugo Weaving…

From that memorable first line “Nothing to be done”, Weaving and Roxburgh possess the large, bare space with confidence. They’re a felicitous partnership, at ease and sparking off each other. Weaving, revelling in Beckett’s spare and surprisingly witty language, has a delightfully rumpled grandeur while the equally excellent Roxburgh bursts with a more impatient pragmatism…

Among the many things that Andrew Upton’s supple, confident production gets right are the silences, making them as compelling and thoughtful as the lines that surround them. Interlopers Pozzo (Philip Quast) and Lucky (Luke Mullins) outstay their welcome as ever, but remind us of one of Beckett’s tenets: we might live in a solitary and futile universe but Vladimir and Estragon possess one very precious thing, friendship.”


“met Hugo Weaving at the Barbican yesterday after seeing him in Waiting for Godot; such a talented actor & so polite after performing in such an intense show! #HugoWeaving #LordOfTheRings #Barbican #SamuelBeckett” cho.ey via Instagram


“Am waiting to see ‘Waiting For Godot’ at @BarbicanCentre and just met Hugo Weaving! @fashionlala” Meg Ellis via Twitter

Neil Dowden, Exeunt Magazine: “60 years on since this iconic play was first staged in this country it has lost none of its power to provoke, puzzle, amuse and move.  The tropes of Beckett’s theatrical landscape may have become much more familiar to us but this absurdist tragicomedy in which ‘nothing happens, twice’ still seems timelessly relevant to the human predicament…

Andrew Upton’s entertaining production certainly passes the time quickly (though it would have passed anyway), with much emphasis on the play’s debt to music-hall humour and silent film comedy. Vladimir and Estragon’s banter and slapstick while waiting for the elusive Godot resembles a vagrant double act on the scrap heap clowning about in order to fend off boredom and anxiety, where even talk about hanging themselves is played for gallows humour. There’s a lot of comic business in this highly physical interpretation, like an existentialist version of Laurel and Hardy, swapping battered hats and horsing around in their ill-fitting, bedraggled suits…

But more tenderly they also resemble an old married couple who bicker, sulk and make up, with ‘Didi’ playing the comforter and ‘Gogo’ the more vulnerable one, in a touching display of mutual emotional dependence. They might get annoyed with each other and talk about leaving, but they both know that in the end it is only their companionship that keeps them going in a world devoid of feature or meaning, where one day succeeds another in monotonous anonymity…

Hugo Weaving’s bearded Vladimir, the more patient and philosophical of the pair, has a touch of gentlemanly elegance in his speech and movement, contrasting with Richard Roxburgh’s pessimistic and disgruntled Estragon, who is near the end of his tether – and they bounce of each other with a real feeling of warmth.”


Animation GIF of the cast Q&A session Candace Brown/Candace in the UK via Blogspot


“Awesome to see @SydneyTheatreCo do Waiting for Godot @barbicancentre with #HugoWeaving and #RichardRoxburgh” Tom Donkin via Twitter/Instagram

Mersa Auda, The Upcoming: “Part of the International Beckett season, this rendition of one of the Theatre of the Absurd’s defining works boasts a cast whose rich theatrical and cinematographic repertoires can, in themselves, guarantee a show’s success, and the work does indeed live up to the high expectations…

The audience’s appreciation of the production is felt throughout the show in the form of frequent chuckles and some roaring laughter, and it culminates in a long, warm applause at the end. The chemistry between Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh makes the comedy flow effortlessly, and the play’s harmonious balance between words and silence is given full expression. The result is a gripping performance that honours Beckett’s poetic humour and allows the audience to truly grasp its tragicomical essence. Verdict:


“Waiting For Godot was utterly spectacular. Hugo Weaving & Richard Roxburgh both fantastic, & even a Q&A afterwards! ” Charlotte Young via Twitter (both above photos)

Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide: “Although this interpretation largely conforms to expectations, there is a mildly Australian slant to the production and Upton does make his mark, especially through the physicality of a star cast…

Hugo Weaving as Vladimir and Richard Roxburgh playing Estragon both have lists of film and TV credits as long as your arm… Each is also very well versed in stage work, as soon becomes apparent during the 2¾-hour performance…

The actors make a fine double act as their characters inanely chatter away for some time about their lives and by extension our own, amusing along the way before the arrival of another duo…

Better known on these shores is Philip Quast, who takes the role of Pozzo combining aggression and slapstick in his partnership with Luke Mullins’s Lucky… Mullins is good both with his physical acting in the early stages and a relatively slow-paced speech, enlivened by a considerable amount of stage business from the other actors…

Despite its mystical nature, Waiting for Godot rarely fails to entertain with its mixture of light comedy and highly serious existential probing. This production is well worth a visit to see what Australia’s finest managers to do with the very best that Ireland can offer.”


“What luck! Got to see Hugo Weaving & Richard Roxburgh in Waiting for Godot @BarbicanCentre w/the bonus of a talkback ” Melanie Lockyer via Twitter


“#WaitingForGodot London Tour Q&A afterwards. #HugoWeaving #RichardRoxburgh #SydneyTheatreCompany” LyridsMC (AKA our Sydney correspondent Yvette) via Instagram

Lydia Lakemoore, A Younger Theatre: “Was I enthralled for those three long hours? You bet I was. Samuel Beckett himself abhorred the need to understand his plays and therefore I adhere to his words and unquestionably sit and watch as two men discuss their shoes being too tight and if they fancy hanging themselves off a weak and feeble tree branch…

Each actor in turn lived up to the fine quality of acting that I have learnt to expect from productions at the Barbican. Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving (well known for The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings) in their roles as Estragon and Vladimir are a pure treat. With delicate madness, subtle humour and carefully controlled absurdity, I have scarcely witnessed such a high calibre of acting. I was lost, immersed and utterly enthralled within the world these fine, experienced actors had created for us. Estragon and Vladimir are such extraordinary complex characters and with less successful direction I can imagine that they could come across as simply mad; too extreme in their characteristics to be seen as genuine. But how can you question a character’s authenticity when it is believed and owed fully and completely by the actor portraying it? That is what was given to me last night. Two extremely heightened characters acted with such precision and delicacy that I never once doubted their authenticity…

The play, like most of Beckett’s work, is a difficult watch, and I would be lying to insinuate anything else. It is long, lacks plot and leaves you with a sense of emptiness, as well as wondering about your own insignificance in this universe. But if a theatre is going to put on a Beckett play, this is how to do it. If you want to see a Beckett play, this is unquestionably the one to watch!”


“Waiting for Godot | Sydney Theatre Company | Post-show Q&A. Will copy the cast’s warm-up on the tube. #STCGodot #STContour #barbicancentre” Alex Morrison via Instagram


#WaitingForGodot London Tour. Even better than the Sydney original version. #HugoWeaving #RichardRoxburgh #SydneyTheatreCompany” LyridsMC via Instagram

Will Rees, Londonist: “Accentuating the play’s comic aspects isn’t without its upsides: the physical humour, especially from Philip Quast and Luke Mullins as Pozzo and Lucky, is breathtaking. And Hugo Weaving holds fort as Vladimir, playing him with a lithe, picaresque grace…

The real hero here is Zsolt Khell, the set designer. Beckett’s directions don’t give a set designer much to go on, but Khell has done an admirable job in creating a minimalist set with a gorgeous, monochrome sheen. And while it sounds a little heavy handed, I liked the decision to set the play amid the rubble of a ruined theatre… In the end, it isn’t all laughs. In the second act the play finds its stride, and the horror almost becomes palpable. ”

[Some critics did disagree with this production’s interpretation Beckett. They tend to be the ones that start off their reviews quoting Plato’s Symposium and have a somewhat snide, pretentious tone when addressing aspects of the production that those not confined to an ivory tower might find relatable. Just my impression. For the record, Beckett referenced Buster Keaton alongside Shakespeare in his work and always mixed “low” and “high” art elements ] 😉


Luhrman, Film-Man: “This week I was lucky enough to sit in the fourth row at the Barbican while Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburg were on stage playing Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot under the direction of the great Andrew Upton, artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company…As the play was coming to an end (Godot still nowhere in sight), I came to think how wealthy of talent Australia is, and how deep my love for this country is (although I still haven’t had a chance to visit it…). ” (Plus photo, above)

Honour Bayes, The Stage: “This Waiting for Godot nearly floats off the stage it’s so light and fleet of foot. At nearly three hours, it flies by, but Andrew Upton’s production is anything but flighty. With profound pathos it illuminates the tragic epicentre of Beckett’s masterpiece, shooting arrows into the heart that take hold and won’t come loose…

Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving’s tender partnership is a treasure. Weaving’s Vladimir is a heel clicking, nimble leader, his stance and manner that of a faded rock star. Roxburgh’s Estragon is anything but simple, instead showing an intuitive wisdom that feels more in tune with their bleak world than Vladimir’s cerebral contentions. Together they play the vaudevillian fools beautifully, utterly on beat with each clownish turn…

Verdict: A nimble production of Waiting for Godot that allows Beckett’s astute absurdism to take centre stage. 5 Stars”
Signed photos by the cast and the tickets ^.^ ” Bella via Twitter


“@prickleandgoo Thank you! #STCGodot ” Mia via Twitter

Claire Allfree, Theater News Online: “Beckett’s most famous play is often as notable for its visual impact as its emotional one. This new production for Sydney Theatre Company certainly doesn’t disappoint on that score. Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh’s Vladimir and Estragon are alone in what looks like the remains of a vast, abandoned, windswept theatre. A rusty proscenium arch frames the stage. A crumbing wall with radiators lies in shadow along the back. Yet the space itself is blasted with a freezing white light that throws the bare trunk of the single tree into stark relief. It’s as though a Siberian winter has encroached upon the last remains of civilisation…

It’s not uncommon to cast Vladimir and Estragon as two old music hall veterans, reliving their glory days through an intuitive double act of vaudevillian clowning. There is certainly a strong whiff of that theatricality in Weaving and Roxburgh’s antic physical comedy, although most of the production’s visual references point to the silent movie era rather than the theatre. Yet this Vladimir and Estragon, waiting in fidgety perpetuity for the Godot who never comes, are striking mainly for a beautifully individuated relationship that is as full of warmth and love as it is quarrel and despair. Weaving is surely the most twinkle-eyed Vladimir to grace the stage. He adopts the seemingly unruffled demeanour of the down on his uppers English gent – all plumy vocals and raffish affectation. Adorning that now shapeless, derelict suit was surely once a purple cravat. This Vladimir is a showman, turning each new calamitous aspect of his and Gogo’s unending predicament into an opportunity to be relished, although every so often that carefully held together performance betrays a terrible strain. Roxburgh’s Estragon, by contrast, is coarser, more truculent, more obviously depressed. Yet as these two old dogs pull back and forth over the course of the play, you sense it is love that has kept them together over and above anything else. ‘We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?’ says Roxburgh’s Estragon. It’s one of the production’s most affirmative moments.”


Hugo Weaving in STC’s Waiting for Godot, London Barbican  Photo: Bettina Strenski/LNP/Rex (plus photo below)


Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh

Fred Fyles, Felix Online: “The small cast, comprising of four main members, is incredibly tight: Richard Roxburgh lends a subtle Australian brogue to his put-upon Estragon, and finds a formidable sparring partner in his companion Vladimir, played by Hugo Weaving. The pair bicker and squabble, enacting out various games, passing the time as they wait for the unseen titular character. How long they have been waiting, how long they will continue to wait, remains a mystery, furthering the sense of alienation the audience finds themselves on the receiving end of. Philip Quast plays the role of Pozzo, who seems to be trapped in his relationship with the put-upon Lucky. Dragged this way and that, near-mute throughout the majority of the play, until he vomits forth a stream of consciousness at the end of Act I, Lucky is perhaps one of the most difficult characters to get right, but Luke Mullins brings an extraordinary physicality to the role…

The English translation of Waiting for Godot is given the subtitle ‘a tragicomedy in two acts’, and in this production the comedic elements are certainly highlighted. Capering around the stage, Roxburgh and Weaving form a brilliant duo, with Vladimir providing a witty foil to Estragon’s more grounded grumbles. ”

You can read compilations of these STC Godot reviews and a few others at The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Here are more 13 more production photos of Godot in London featuring Hugo Weaving as Vladimir, Richard Roxburgh as Estragon, Philip Quast as Pozzo and Luke Mullins as Lucky. All are credited to Bettina Strenski/LNP/Rex.

Strangerland Begins Australian Arthouse Run

Strangerland opens wide (well, sorta-wide) in Australia today, slated for a limited arthouse run with many screenings to feature director Kim Farrant Q&A sessions after the film.  According to the film’s Australian distributor Transmission, it will screen at Palace Cinemas locations for the next week; check here for specific cities and showtimes. Also check out Transmission’s website to download a lavish packet of Strangerland-related goodies, including the film’s press kit, Australian poster and a gallery ofhigh-res stills. (Files played best on VLC player for me.)


Hugo Weaving and Nicole Kidman in Strangerland, via Transmission (larger version of this image here)

The film’s US distributor, Alchemy, is planning a more stripped-down, mostly VOD release with DVD soon to follow. No intel yet on whether the film will actually have any theatrical screenings over here, but there is at least a Facebook page to keep tabs now, and Alchemy has added a subpage at their website. US release is July 10 with DVD/Blu-Ray following on August 18.

Reviews for the film remain mixed though there are a lot more unreserved raves from the Australian critics (though many others still either don’t like the film’s ambiguity or don’t think the theme is satisfyingly played out); the performances are generally drawing praise, though some are on the fence about Joseph Fiennes, depending how they interpret his performance. Here is a sampling of  quotes from recent reviews, complete with links to original sources.

Garry Maddox, Sydney Morning Herald: “Rather than conventional storytelling, Farrant is more interested in the impact of the crisis on Christine and Matthew – the way trauma drives them to a primal state and brings out the repressed emotions that have undermined the marriage… It’s an enigmatic film that leaves audiences with uneasy questions and hints at a deeper theme about female desire and the connection between grief and sex. (Three stars out of four)”


Alternate poster for the Australian release

Louise Keller, Urban Cinefile: “There’s a wonderful mood and sense of place about Kim Farrant’s debut feature set in the Australian outback, although the individual parts are more successful than the whole. With a screenplay by Michael Kinirons and Fiona Seres, the film boasts a dream cast..

Resentment, suspicion, fear and frustration are the emotions canvassed, with Kidman terrific as the frustrated wife and mother displaying maximum vulnerability, and Fiennes effective as the stitched up husband and father. There’s a nervous energy about both of them… The fact that there is little chemistry between Kidman and Fiennes works in the plot’s favour and as the film progresses and Catherine’s pent-up sexuality comes into focus, the parallels are drawn between mother and daughter…

The scene in the car in which Hugo Weaving’s police officer Rae describes the portrait of his former marriage is one of the most touching moments; Weaving has great depth and heart. Reunited for the first time on screen since Bangkok Hilton (1989), there’s real chemistry between Weaving and Kidman. Key characters in the secondary story strands are Meyne Wyatt as Burtie, the young Aboriginal man who wouldn’t hurt a fly and Lisa Flanagan as his sister as well as Rae’s lover. Both are convincing…P.J. Dillon’s cinematography shows off the harsh, Australian landscape to best advantage and the helicopter shots above the dramatic gorge that looks as though it has been painted in crayons, are stunning. The police search for the missing kids and the mystical elements sit awkwardly.”

***

Stephen A Russell, TheLowDownUnder: “Poor old Nicole gets a mighty truckload of shit from her compatriots down under and when you look at rot like Grace of Monaco, it might seem warranted, but I’ve always been fond of her more unhinged turns in psycho-sexual fare like The Paperboy, Stoker and recent thriller Before I Go To Sleep… Kim Farrant’s hypnotic Stangerland falls into the latter category. Kidman stars as Catherine Parker who has just relocated to the fictional Nathgari, a hot and dusty, remote outback town with husband Matthew (Joseph Fiennes, English accent intact) and kids Lily (Maddison Brown) and Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton). There’s a palpable tension simmering under the not very happy family surface here, a skittish unease over barely concealed history, Lynch-style by way of Wake In Fright/Picnic at Hanging Rock…

Inexplicably, this is only the second time Weaving and Kidman have shared the big screen, with the first being 1989’s Bangkok Hotel. There’s a burning fire between them that’s purposefully missing from her screen-time with Fiennes. Hints of Lindy Chamberlain’s travails eventually lead home and as Catherine unravels, her fate is seemingly bound to her daughter’s illicit sexual escapades…

All of this confusion and sexual tension plays out against the striking backdrop of simultaneous beauty and niggling horror evoked by cinematographer PJ Dillon’s sweeping helicopter shots and extreme close ups of the scorched earth and small creatures of Australia’s red centre…

The script, from Fiona Seres and Michael Kinirons, gets stuck in a few repetitive beats, failing to fully capitalise on a few interesting angles, particularly an overt reference to the Rainbow Serpent from Coreen and the ominous warnings her grandmother who notes that sometimes children simply disappear here, but Farrant manages to cast a menacing spell nonetheless…

Kidman in particular is on fine form, showing once again proving she’s more suited to this sort of emotionally and morally complex material than the Hollywood starlet gigs, with a final act unveiling showing a quite admirable bravery.” (Three and a half stars)

***

Paul Byrnes, Sydney Morning Herald: “If ever there was an Australian film struggling to get out from under the burden of its manifold meanings and themes, this is it. It’s a pity, because there is a lot of talent on show. Farrant does a fine job with the sense of dread, and the performances. Weaving gives a superb grounded weight to his portrait of a cop trying to be the voice of reason. Kidman’s pain is palpable, bound up with self-doubt and blazing anger. Fiennes makes the least likeable character understandable, even pitiable.”

***

Richard Gray, The Reel Bits: “Resolutions don’t come easy in STRANGERLAND, but it is nevertheless a gripping film from start to finish. Against some gorgeous photography by P.J. Dillon (recently of TV’s Vikings), the leads work with a lightly scripted film, where it is more about visceral reaction than subtle character development. Kidman gives one of her finer performances as she descends into anguish, surprising us several times along the way with emotional, sexual and sometimes violent outbursts. Fiennes is restrained as the pharmacist husband, who exhibits an indifference that is equal parts frustrating and understated stoicism. Of particular note is Meyne Wyatt (Neighbours), who has a award-worthy performance as the intellectually disabled Bertie. There are certainly elements that don’t entirely work, including some tacked on rainbow serpent spiritualism in the back half of the film that strives for Picnic at Hanging Rock mystery. It’s a plot thread that seems redundant by the end, but it doesn’t detract from the emotionally raw and captivating journey this film takes us on.” (9 out of 10 stars)

***

Edward Curtis, The Film Blerg: “The film contains some impressive performances from homegrown talent and expected quality from its known stars. Lisa Flanagan and Meyne Wyatt play Burtie and Coreen, a brother and sister who have more association with the Parker family than anyone else in the town. Brown and Hamilton have a certain sibling chemistry that demonstrates their solace in sharing one another’s company. Fiennes and Weaving both represent strong opposing characters doing their separate duties, as one man falls apart, the other must piece together the facts. However, it is Kidman’s performance that stands out, with the anguish and destruction of Catherine being so seamless it surpasses the film’s plot into some sorrowful territory.

On the whole, it is the major components of Strangerland that don’t quite fit together, being a police procedural film wanting to explore the destruction of this family. Whilst not an inconceivable approach, with Prisoners being the perfect example, Strangerland is at times not sure which theme it wants us to invest in more. By creating this imbalance between the two structures it leaves for a slightly underwhelming experience…

Strangerland is bold, thought provoking and an accomplished film from first-time feature director Kim Farrant. Whose skills show her ability to get some great performances from a range of different actors, as well as taking on some interesting subject matter. Given some solid working material there’s no doubt Farrant has a lot more in store for the years to come.”

***

There are positive-leaning audio reviews by CJ Johnson (702Sydney/ABC) and Matthew Toomey (612Brisbane/ABC)

You can read Kim Farrant’s interviews about making the film, how she incorporated highly personal themes and how she’s gauging the varied audience response at IndieWire, RTRFM (audio interview), Scenestr.The Sydney Morning Herald and ABC Arts.

You can see behind the scenes video, including interviews with Farrant and Kidman, at Yahoo7 (includes footage of Hugo filming in Canowindra), The Courier Mail and MSNNews Ten.

There’s an article about a screening of the film for Canowindra residents, many of whom played extras, at Central Western Daily.


Hugo Weaving and Sean Kennan filming Strangerland in Canowindra last year. My still from Yahoo7 video

Between a Frock and A Hard Place

Priscilla fans will rejoice in the news of a brand new documentary film celebrating the making of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The film, entitled Between a Frock and a Hard Place, will air on Australian TV 18 June at 8.30 on ABC, followed by a DVD release July 8. Though we’ve seen several Priscilla-related  docs and behind the scenes featurettes (including the full-length Ladies Please doc and several shorter pieces which accompanied various DVD/Blu-Ray issues) this sounds more comprehensive, and will feature interviews with director Stephan Elloitt and actors Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce. (No specifics on whether these are new interviews, but some program stills of Elliott definitely look recent.) Stamp narrates.  More info at Impulse Gamer, Arts Review, Nelbie and Same Same, which details a special live Q&A to follow the doc, which will address changing cultural attitudes to LGBT issues.


Hugo Weaving as Mitzi

STC’s Godot In London: New Pics of Hugo Weaving & The Cast, Reviews & Interviews; Strangerland at SFF

A veritable deluge of new material on Sydney Theatre Godot’s London engagement of Waiting For Godot has appeared over the past 48 hours, and I’m struggling to keep up, so I’ll apologise for any lack of organization or sloppy errors. So far reviews from professional critics and audiences alike have been ecstatic, and we have tons of new production photos and fan photos. The cast have been very kind about signing programmes for fans at the stage door, but I should pass on the message that they’re ONLY signing Godot-related items, so leave your Matrix/LOTR mementos at home.  (This policy echoes that put in place for the New York run of an earlier production of Godot and Pinter’s No Man’s Land (Two Plays In Rep) which starred Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen… On the whole it’s very sensible, though I’ve had Hugo sign “off-topic items” in the past. I think the actors are trying to prioritize fans who’ve actually bought tickets to see the play rather than gate-crashers who sell autographs online, and who constantly harassed Hugo during both the NYC of Uncle Vanya and at this year’s Sundance film festival.) The feedback I’m getting so far is that the actors have been very generous about signing and posing for photos with fans.


Hugo Weaving, Luke Mullins and Richard Roxburgh as Vladimir, Lucky and Estragon in STC’s Waiting For Godot at the London Barbican.  Photo: Roy Tan via Broadwayworld.com

I’ll lead off with a great new interview Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh and Andrew Upton did for The Sydney Morning Herald, then intersperse review excerpts with the wealth of fan and professional photos of the new productions. There WILL be additional photos in days to come, but some aren’t ready to share yet.

This is the print version of the Sydney Morning Herald piece, which finds Weaving and Roxburgh exchanging impressions of the play, and how it’s evolved between the Sydney and London stagings. Andrew Upton makes some hopeful noise about future touring for the STC, but holds out on any specifics. 😉 You can read the identical online version here.   The amazing photo in both versions is by Julian Andrews.

I’ve also added print scans of Hugo Weaving’s Wall Street Journal interview from June 4 and David Stratton’s review of Strangerland from The Australian to my Hugo Weaving Flickr archive…both are very similar to the online versions previously shared.

Here are an assortment of new production photos, fan/stage door photos and review excerpts; as always, the reviews are well worth reading in their entirety, so I’ve linked back to the sites of origin.


Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh in Waiting For Godot   Photo: Roy Tan via Broadwayworld.com

Jane Schilling, The Daily Telegraph: “Andrew Upton’s production for the Sydney Theatre Company, part of the Barbican’s International Beckett Festival, draws on the drama’s ludic qualities to revelatory effect….

There is a theatrical experience as rare as it is wonderful, when you realise in the opening moments of a play that nothing will go wrong: you are about to spend two hours in the dark, captivated, moved and, when you leave, in some way changed. This is what Upton and his cast achieve in a production of luminous intelligence and virtuoso physicality…

Weaving’s sinuous, dandified Vladimir, Roxburgh’s wounded Estragon, Philip Quast, ruined and bombastic as Pozzo, and Luke Mullins’s menacingly vulnerable Lucky explore the resonances of Beckett’s text with elegant precision – and an acrobatic comic timing with hats, boots, suitcases and trousers that makes the physical world seem infinitely strange… Godot’s cavernous reserves of pity, horror and comedy have seldom been so beautifully explored.”


Photo: Roy Tan/Broadwayworld.com


Luke Mullins, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving and Philip Quast   Photo: Alastair Muir/The Daily Telegraph

Rev Stan’s Theatre Blog: “…As Vladimir and Estragon entertain themselves to pass the time so we are similarly entertained. There is a bleakness and tragedy in everything but equally there is something very warm and comforting. This is a production with no half measures…

The comic performances are brilliantly ridiculous in their physicality, at times outlandish while at others as subtle as a glance or a look. But it never loses the pathos and its heart and it is in those moments that you really feel like a mirror is being held up. It a very personal play, one in which you will interpret and reconcile its themes in your own way while being thoroughly entertaining.

Weaving and Roxburgh have a brilliant rapport, their Vladimir and Estragon rub along together just like an old married couple bickering and yet quietly full of care. Quast’s Pozzo is superbly affected with a gentile arrogance and Mullins’ Lucky delicate and vicious…At two hours and fifty minutes there is a lot of waiting but I lapped up every second of it.”


Photo: Alastair Muir/The Daily Telegraph


Photo: Roy Tan/Broadwayworld.com

Marek, Crilogy.com: “…it was the most won­der­ful, bit­ter­sweet allegory of human­ity I’ve ever seen. Seem­ingly a hil­ari­ous com­edy of abso­lutely noth­ing hap­pen­ing, yet tak­ing my mind to places not many other plays or movies man­aged to do over the last few years. Hell, I caught myself won­der­ing off in thoughts and los­ing sev­eral moments of the dia­log! Which then turned out to be the exact reflec­tion of what was por­trayed on stage…

There was no stand­ing ova­tion. Nobody cried. And yet I can swear to you right here and right now that it was truly the most power­ful cock­tail of expres­sion of this dec­ade. At least for me…

Dir­ec­ted by Andrew Upton, a fine cast of Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weav­ing, Philip Quast, Luke Mullins and young boy (name of whose I can­not find) delivered a mas­ter­piece of com­plex­it­ies mas­quer­ad­ing in simplicity… yet another phe­nom­enal per­form­ance by Sydney Theatre Com­pany. Samuel Beckett’s Wait­ing for Godot is one play any­one should see and pon­der about.”


Hugo Weaving, Luke Mullins and Richard Roxburgh   Photo (plus following 15) by Robbie Jack/Corbis


Luke Mullins, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving and Philip Quast


Above 16 photos: Robbie Jack/Corbis

Here’s a selection of great fan photos along with their original Twitter or Instagram captions:


“Forged in the very fires of mount doom 🙂 #lotr #hugoweaving #legend #elrond” Ash B via Twitter (both above pics)


“GUYS I JUST MET HUGO WEAVING ” Bella, via Twitter


“Had a cheeky hug off Hugo Weaving #happiness #hugoweaving #waitingforgodot” Karolina Goralik, via Twitter/Instagram


“London Tube Ad, #STCGodot” Tim McKeough/Instagram


“Program signed by Hugo Weaving #waitingforgodot #hugoweaving” Hein, via Instagram

Yo can read an interview with Richard Roxburgh, who also discusses his popular series Rake at Yahoo7. And some tickets for the remaining performances of Godot are still available at The Barbican’s website: if you are at all in the position to go, I urge you not to wait around. 😉 More pics and reviews soon, as they become available. Should be a very busy week here.

Strangerland at Sydney Film Festival

Meanwhile, Hugo’s latest film performance, in Kim Farrant’s Strangerland, has been on view this week at this year’s Sydbey Film Festival. While the reviews have, on the whole, been more positive than those at Sundance, and nearly all praise Hugo’s performance, there remains a certain “WTF?!” quotient, particularly– though certainly not unanimously– among male critics. Kim Farrant spoke at a Q&A session for the film at SFF on June 6 which was well-received, and plans to keep promoting the film in its arthouse tour of Australia over the next month. She’s been surprisingly frank about the film’s personal origins in several promo interviews.  The most interesting of these are two video interviews at AAP, which include footage from the film and Farrant’s description of the film’s origins, themes and how the cast came together… longtime fans will know that Hugo was the first member of the final cast to sign on, but I just learned in these interviews that he’s worked previously with Farrant, on a 1996 short film called “No One To Blame”. After nearly fifteen years in the Hugo fandom, I’m astonished to keep uncovering heretofore unknown items in his past resume. This film is only mentioned briefly on Farrant’s website, and, alas, she provides no sample footage, though you can view work from her many other projects over the years. I guess this will be another “Holy Grail” item for fans to continue looking for. 😉

Some of Farrant’s comments from the AAP footage as well as behind the scenes footage and an interview with Nicole Kidman, appear at MSN/News Ten‘s website. You can view a gallery of pics from Strangerland’s SFF premiere (featuring Maddison Brown, Meyne Wyatt, Lisa Flanagan, Nicholas Hamilton and Kim Farrant) at the film’s Facebook page.

Here are excerpts from a few of the positive-leaning reviews:

David Stratton, The Australian:  “For her debut feature, Farrant has been fortunate to work with a splendid cast. Kidman, who last played an Australian in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia five years ago, brings depth to the troubled character of Catherine, reminding us that she frequently has chosen challenging and offbeat roles during her interesting career. Hugo Weaving, as the local cop in charge of investigating the disappearances, is in excellent form, as is British actor Fiennes as the troubled Matthew…

Strangerland may possibly be too mysterious to be a major success, but this immaculately made movie goes a long way towards reminding us why a vibrant local film industry is so essential for the nation as a whole. Its intelligently drawn characters, with all their aspirations and all their failings, are a part of this Australian landscape, though in many ways they have a recognisable universality. Like the character played by Gary Bond in Wake in Fright, they’re unsettled by the extreme conditions they find in this small outback community, where danger lurks just beyond the town limits.”


Hugo Weaving and Nicole Kidman in Strangerland   Photo: ABC

Jason DiRosso, The Final Cut/ABC: “Strangerland, as the title suggests, is a film imbued with an unease about not feeling at home in country. It stars Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes as a couple whose teenage son and daughter go missing, not long after the family moves to a small outback town. But it’s also a film about sexual repression and denial, which of course is also metaphorical…

First time director Kim Farrant, working with Irish cinematographer PJ Dillon, often pushes the film into dreamlike terrain, recalling a tradition of outback expressionism found in films like Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout and Ted Kotcheff’s Wake In Fright. There’s an effectively staged, nightmarish scene where the husband and wife get stuck in their car during a dust storm and recurring images of a nearby gorge taken from a helicopter, or maybe a drone, that sets a menacing tone. All of this seems to underline a sense that this landscape is threatening and mysterious, an idea expressed, with a slightly heavy hand, in the character of an old Aboriginal woman whose brief, enigmatic appearances in the film add a dash of mysticism…

Kidman, who is the best on screen, plays the kind of delicate flower that we’ve seen before, but she’s also a woman with a lot of fight. I liked that Farrant shows so much respect for her struggle. One key to understanding the film is to see it as the story of a woman who has become estranged from her emotional life and is searching desperately, sometimes hysterically, to find some way to reconnect. It’s a pity Fiennes’s character is not as well drawn (there’s a fine line between wooden and uptight). As the elements of police thriller and domestic drama crescendo in parallel, you can feel the movie straining to carry all the elements, and it starts to run out of ideas. Still, for all the film’s unevenness, it’s a promising debut from Farrant. A filmmaker to watch. ”

***

Sandra Hall, Brisbane Times/Sydney Morning Herald: “It’s the red centrepiece of Strangerland, a first feature film from television director Kim Farrant, who’s ambitiously aiming for something that sits alongside Picnic, Walkabout and Wake in Fright – films which take an anthropomorphic view of the Australian landscape. They would have us see it as a secretive entity with a way of swallowing up those who get too close to it….

Kidman has played distraught mothers before now. They’ve been roles which have afforded her the chance to display her considerable gift for the eloquent silence. Like her compatriot Naomi Watts, she can conjure a lot out of seeming to do very little. But, sadly, there’s none of that kind of miniaturism here. She rapidly accelerates to a state of barely contained hysteria and stays there, hyperventilating throughout…

Fortunately, we have Weaving, who is such an unaffected and malleable screen performer that he brings a sharp jolt of reality to his every scene. So do Flanagan and Wyatt. Both familiar from their great work in the TV series Redfern Now, they help to take the edge off the redneck caricatures who make up the rest of the town’s population.

And because it centres on the mystery of two missing children, it’s a compelling story, although I’m not sure if its spiritual dimensions convince. The script has grafted on bits of Aboriginal mythology which sit oddly with everything else. And yet the landscape weaves some potent magic.” [3 and a half stars]More to follow about both projects, meanwhile I’ll retweet/reblog all positive audience feedback on social media for both via my Twitter account.

STC’s Waiting For Godot Begins London Run; Two New Hugo Weaving Interviews

Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, starring Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Philip Quast and Luke Mullins, held its first performance at London’s Barbican Center tonight. while we await the first reviews (and, ideally some new pics) I’m going to share two new promo interviews Hugo Weaving gave which appeared online yesterday. So far I’ve been unable to find print versions, so I’ll embed the texts of the online versions. As always, I don’t edit Hugo’s interviews, as everything he says is very much worth reading… however you should click on the links to the sites of origin too, because both have shared extra-large versions of the photos included below. Alas, none are new pics, but all are either recent (from January’s Sundance film fest) or are of the original Sydney production.

The new interviews– which iriginally appeared online in The Irish World and The Wall Street Journal— are refreshingly on-topic, thoughtful and fascinating reads. Some people are reading Hugo’s comments as some sort of retirement announcement… I wouldn’t do that. 😉 Yes, he’s probably going to take an extended break after a punishing schedule of theatrical performances and indie film shoots over the past few years, but I’m certain he’ll return to both in time. His series of annual STC gigs over the past several years WAS probably unique and had a lot to do with Andrew Upton’s tenure as Artistic Director (along with Cate Blanchett for the first several years), but I don’t think he’ll give up the medium which has provided some of his meatiest roles. He’s also emphasized his focus on Australian cinema in other recent interviews and has at least two semi-official projects (with directors Glendyn Ivins and Anand Gandhi) that might move forward sometime in the future. He sounds a lot less interested in joining any large-scale Hollywood productions, but this is nothing new, and I’m personally happy to hear him not waver on this point.

Anyhow, always best to let Hugo speak for himself, so here goes:

I’m Waiting for the man
The Irish World (online) 3 June 2015


Hugo Weaving and co-star Richard Roxburgh in a scene from Waiting for Godot.  Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

David Hennessy talks to Hugo Weaving, the actor well known for film roles that include The Matrix and Lord of the Rings, just before he stars in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at The Barbican in London.

After a successful run down under in 2013, Hugo Weaving is coming to London with the Sydney Theatre Company and the Beckett classic, Waiting for Godot. So positively received was Waiting for Godot, starring Hugo, in it’s previous run that one reviewer gushed that the playwright himself Samuel Beckett, known for being hard to please, would applaud if he had been there to see it.

“Well, that’s lovely,” Hugo tells the Irish World in response. “I don’t know who said that or whether they knew Beckett personally because they would have had to have known him to know whether or not he would have been applauding.

“Look, I would have loved to have met Sam Beckett, just an extraordinary man, extraordinary writer and I’m sure even if he did (applaud), I’m sure he would have lots of notes as well. I’m sure he would have lots of criticism. I don’t necessarily accept that but look, that’s lovely if someone thinks that but, from my understanding, he was a hard taskmaster.

 

“I think the thing he loved probably about being in theatre was taking himself out of himself and being engaged in a more communal, creative enterprise but having said that, he also was quite firm about the way certain things should be so I’m sure there would be a lot of stuff we’re doing that he would not necessarily agree with.

“I think the spirit of Beckett is the most important thing to try and understand. The specifics of it, the particularities of it are probably going to change with every different actor. Wherever you are in the world, whoever’s playing Estragon, whoever’s playing Vladimir, whoever’s playing Pozzo, it’s going to be a different play and Beckett would have understood that.


Appearing in Waiting for Godot has encouraged Hugo to explore Beckett’s other work. Picture: Lisa Tomesetti

“The more I’ve read of his work, the more I appreciate the way in which he was trying to explore all of these unfathomable, unknowing parts of our existence so if we can in any way capture that spirit..that’s what we’re aiming for anyway. It always feels like it’s a work in progress.”

Waiting for Godot sees Vladimir, played by Weaving, and Estragon, played by another Australian Hollywood star Richard Roxburgh, waiting in vain for the arrival of someone called Godot.

Just this year, Hugo performed in Endgame, again with the Sydney Theatre Company. Prior to Waiting for Godot, to perform Beckett had been a long term ambition of his. He has felt the need to seek out some of his other work: “We decided we would do Waiting for Godot and I thought, ‘I’ve got to learn more about this writer, I thought I’ve got to read him chronologically’ so I started reading More Pricks than Kicks. I started reading and slowly worked my way through his work and then by the time I got to Godot, I sort of had a better understanding of who he was as a writer anyway.

“His work, I absolutely love it and I would rate Watt and Molloy as my two favourites, absolutely love those. I think they’re transformative for the reader and I don’t think many writers affect you that way, I don’t think many writers turn your view of the world on it’s head and force you to read something through a completely different set of binoculars. It’s great and he’s so funny too. I was reading Watt and laughing my head off. It’s not easy to read so you gotta keep going back over things and you slowly start to dig him.”

Hugo was unforgettable in his chilling role of Agent Smith in The Matrix. Other well known roles include The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and V for Vendetta.

However, he has such a huge body of work. He has won three Australian Film Institute Awards, all for Best Actor in a Lead Role for the Australian films Proof (1991), the Interview (1998) and Little Fish (2005). Other awards include a Sydney Theatre Award for his work in V for Vendetta.

Is it frustrating or unsettling to be well known for The Matrix and Lord of the Rings when he has been so productive on other things for more than three decades now? “Not really, it’s just the way of the world, isn’t it?

“I’ve done many many films mostly in Australia, mostly low budget. A lot of the work I’ve done that I’m proudest of has probably not been seen by so many people but I really think there’s some great little films. I always think it’s a shame that those films aren’t seen by a wider audience not because they highlight something that I’ve done but because I think they’re really interesting films but that’s kind of the way of the world.

“Then of course on the other scale you’ve got the larger studio films that I have been involved with that everyone’s seen and decided that’s what I’ve done and in a funny way, they’re a bit anonymous. The majority of my work has been in low budget Australian films and in theatre but every now and then, I’ve jumped into a big studio picture and I’ve been very happy to do that although I would be wary to do that (again), depending on what it is, of course.

“I do look to try to do Australian work which is necessarily lower budget I suppose. I don’t look to do lower budget film but I do look to do look to do Australian film projects and most of them are independent and therefore pretty low budget compared to working on something like The Matrix or like V for Vendetta or Lord of the Rings.”

The Matrix depicted a future where humans were farmed by machines and kept in a realistic but false computer world that kept the entire population distracted. Is it not a film that has a new relevance now with so many people living their lives online? “Yeah,” says Hugo who you would not catch tweeting what he had for breakfast. “I’m such a luddite really. Well, I’m not a luddite but I’d sooner plant a tree than go and make a tweet. I don’t have a Twitter account so my comprehension of that world is pretty limited as well. I have nothing great to add to the debate but certainly people are online a lot and I can only say: Get out and have a walk, enjoy nature, plant a tree and grow some vegetables, look at the sunset, look at the stars and chat to some friends face to face. I love all that.”

Has Hugo spent much time in Ireland? “Yeah, my dad took us, I think I must have been fifteen. I had a fantastic time there but apart from that, my trips to Ireland have been a refuel in Shannon coming from New York en route to the Cannes Film Festival and that’s about it.,

“My son has just travelled around Ireland with his girlfriend in a camper van and that’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, go to Ireland and spend time there.“I think Australians have a great affinity with the Irish. There’s a lot of Irish culture and humour in Australian humour and culture. There’s a big link between Ireland and Australia. I love nature and I love greenery and wild windswept places but I also really dig funky cities and I would love to go to Dublin. I think the Irish people that I have met and known here, there’s just something really lovely about them. I’m generalising of course but I very much like to spend time there.  It’s a place I will definitely come to sooner rather than later and spend quite a bit of time there. I feel very Celtic actually.”

Waiting for Godot, presented by Sydney Theatre Company, is at the Barbican from Thursday June 4 to Saturday June 13. It is part of the International Beckett season there that runs from June 2-21. For more information, go to https://www.barbican.org.uk/.

*******

Hugo Weaving Takes ‘Waiting for Godot’ to London

The Australian actor reflects on the challenges of Samuel Beckett’s classic absurdist drama

Photo: Hugo Weaving promotes Strangerland at the Sundance Film Festival, 23 January 2015. Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

By JAMES GLYNN, The Wall Street Journal

June 3, 2015 11:52 p.m. ET

SYDNEY—A world away from Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Hugo Weaving is contemplating a hiatus from stage and screen.

“I have a hankering for peace and quiet, tree-planting, growing vegetables, being with nature,” Mr. Weaving says. “That’s where I’m at as Hugo.”

Before that, however, the Australian actor, whose big-screen credits include “The Matrix,” “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies, will be in London playing Vladimir in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Samuel Beckett’s classic “Waiting for Godot.”

A Beckettian odyssey—Mr. Weaving recently concluded a run of the playwright’s equally absurdist “Endgame”—can weary an actor. “Waiting for Godot,” which runs June 4 to 13 at the Barbican Theatre and reunites the cast of the company’s acclaimed 2013 production, is a real test, he says.

“Beckett has stripped everything out of ‘Godot,’ ” Mr. Weaving says. “It is almost an actor’s nightmare of being stuck on stage and not knowing what to say or even asking, What play am I doing? It is sort of what Godot is, I reckon. There is nothing to say, and the two main characters [have] got to keep saying things or otherwise they would go absolutely mad.”

There is no point in attempting to dramatically reinterpret the play, Mr. Weaving says, as any affectations or devices would simply collapse under the play’s demands for simplicity. “You need to be very delicate with Beckett. His characters are very human, and that’s what makes them so wonderful and so funny and robust in a way,” he says. “You cannot stick anything there.”

Mr. Weaving sat down with the Journal to talk about interpreting “Godot,” the play’s humor, and his recently dark theatrical path, which included a stage production of “Macbeth.” Edited excerpts:

What is your take on “Godot”?

The understanding of the play comes from watching it and being in it, really. I don’t think you can easily sum it up. It’s something that whenever Beckett was asked about, he said it is all in the words, and it is all in the play. So I think the understanding of it is in the viewing and experiencing of both doing it and watching it. Beckett wrote it after the Second World War, and he’d been on the run, hiding in the south of France, having left Paris and been part of a resistance cell and the Irish Red Cross in Normandy. He’d seen a lot of hardship. The Second World War decimated Europe and changed the world. The play expresses something that he realized after the war—that he couldn’t write in the same way. He could not be a knowing writer anymore, and he had to express a lot of his doubt—his inabilities. So I think that the play deals with not knowing, and weakness and failure—and that’s the thing I love about the play.

How risky is it to try and overly define the play?

He is one of the first writers to deal with all those human frailties that many other writers before him had tried to cover up with heroic characters. The beauty of its characters, and the beauty of the play itself, is because of his realization that that is what he needed to write about. It’s possibly a post-apocalyptic world—we don’t know really—and these people are waiting, there is a routine that they go through, and they are spending their time in the best way, trying to avoid the hideous silence that surrounds them. It is kind of a metaphor for life, I suppose, but, really, to try and sum it up is not a good idea.


Hugo Weaving, left, and Richard Roxburgh in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of ‘Waiting for Godot,’ which runs June 4 to 13 at the Barbican Theatre in London. PHOTO: LISA TOMASETTI

Is it important to know who Godot is?

He is a man we never see. Beckett absolutely refused to say who that was. There are obvious religious metaphors, but it would be entirely wrong to suggest that Godot was God. That is just completely wrong. He is just a man they are waiting for, or a person they are waiting for, [or] he is not one person. There are all sorts of theories.

Ian McKellen has said that it isn’t up to actors to tell audiences what to think. Is that the best approach?

Beckett is a great poet, and I don’t think it was his job to clarify things to people. It was his job to suggest things rather as a poet does through language. And similarly as actors, it’s our job to try to in some way find a world that feels appropriate for us, and our existence within that world and portray that, and allow the audience to imagine something for themselves.

Your recent plays all have an element of darkness and speak to universal human questions. Does that reflect your current stage of life?

I haven’t chosen them because of that, no. I was interested some years ago when I thought of doing some more theater with the [Sydney Theatre Company]. There had been a couple of plays I’d done, which were good plays. I had a hankering that if I was going to do a play, to do something that was a great work of art, that I couldn’t ever quite fathom or get to the bottom of. So the great thing about working with Shakespeare, Chekhov or Beckett is that you know it is always going to be slightly elusive, and the journey of it each night is going to be something which in some way mirrors life.

How does this production of “Godot” treat the balance between humor and darkness?

It is a delicate thing. You need to play the character to fit the situation, and then that’s what will make it funny. If you play for laughs, then it becomes obvious that’s what you are doing and then it’s less funny. I try to stick with what Vladimir is saying and thinking and let whatever happens, happen. If people think that is funny, great. There are times when Vladimir and Estragon [played by Richard Roxburgh] enjoy themselves despite the situation. It is a pretty fractious relationship—they are more clowning with each other, but I would not describe them as clowns.

Is there any self-reflection or catharsis coming to you from these roles?

I am at a watershed in my life. [My partner] Katrina and I are re-evaluating who we are, what family means, and what we want to do. I’m at a point of gradual change. Also, as an actor I’m increasingly finding it harder to say “yes” to film projects, because there are certain films that I really love as art forms, but there are a lot of films that I have no time for and I’m not interested in. The majority of films made for the industry are entertainments, and a lot of them are pretty poor at that. So the films that I love are pretty few and far between.

These are weighty roles you have taken on. Do you need time to rejuvenate?

I need to take a break from theater, probably because of the roles I’ve been doing, which I’ve absolutely loved. Theater is really quite exhausting. After we finish in London, I’m planning to take a bit of a break from theater. These plays give you a big workout every night. It is a complete holistic workout, so they do trash you a bit in a way. If I end up planting more trees up on the property, then that is fine by me.

*******

Though there aren’t yet any new photos of the production in performance (nor has Hugo done any new photo sessions to accompany the interviews) there are two new great photos taken during rehearsals, both of which originally appeared on Tim McKeough’s Instagram feed. I’ll add those below with their original captions:


“Beckett Fest. The Godots and Lisa Dwan. #stcontour” Photo: Tim McKeogh via Instagram [L to R: Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins, Philip Quast, Lisa Dwan and Hugo Weaving]


“Checking out the space #stcontour #stcgodot” Tim McKeough via Instagram [L to R: Luke Mullins, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Philip Quast]

Lisa Dwan, the actress who appears in some of thee rehearsal photos, is starring in a separate production (Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby) during The Barbican Center’s Beckett Fest, and will appear with Hugo on BBC2’s new arts series Artsnight, discussing Beckett with host Richard Foreman on an episode to air later this month. The series has a webpage here, where new episodes will probably be available for viewing (probably to UK audiences only) oncethey air on TV. No specific date has been announced, but you can read more at thestage.co.uk.

Strangerland

Though Hugo isn’t available to help promote Strangerland at SFF, director Kim Farrant has proven adept at handling publicity without the assistance of her stars; she gave a lengthy radio interview to ABC’s Movieland (which can be streamed or downloaded), and talked to The Sydney Morning Herald about her long journey in bringing Strangerland to the screen, including the tidbit that her casting of Hugo Weaving (who’s been attached to the project since 2008) helped secure Nicole Kidman’s services.

ComingSoon.net debuted the second official poster for the film; I sort of prefer the ambiguity of the first one, but both are pretty great.

Film Mafia‘s CJ Johnson is the latest to praise the film, calling it “… a terrific beast: it’s got a foot in each of the commercial and arthouse camps, and is entertaining in both. It knows exactly what it’s doing at each and every turn. It is assured, confident and well constructed. It is also gripping, thrilling, creepy and exciting. See it.” Of Hugo Weaving’s performance, he adds “Hugo Weaving plays a local cop who becomes deeply involved in their situation, and it’s the best role I’ve seen him in in ages. He’s just terrific, at ease and fluid, open and free, as a lanky, robust outback policeman who suddenly has a real case to deal with – along with the accompanying personalities. Over the years, Weaving has seemed to stiffen onscreen, constrained by Elvish make-up and the like, but here, given a wide-open landscape, a nice beard and a generous character, he flows, freely, givingly. It’s a great performance.”

Can’t say I agree with the notion that most of Hugo’s recent film roles have been “stiff” in any way… is it possible this critic has only seen The Hobbit trilogy and not Healing, The Turning, The Mule or Mystery Road? He has the beard in all of those fllms (except The Mule, which required the 80s Porn ‘Stache) and they’re varied and all compelling. Yes, I will concede Hugo’s acting seems more natural when he has the beard. 😉

You can read about the film’s original soundtrack by Keefus Ciancia at Film Music Reporter.  Strangerland finally has a Facebook page, which you can follow here. And Sneak Peak recently featured a Nicole Kidman interview, taped at Sundance, discussing the film.

Updates soon as we start getting fan feedback, reviews and new pics from Godot’s London run

Hugo Weaving Arrives In London For STC’s Waiting For Godot On Tour: Strangerland at SFF

Once again I have to start things off with an apology: my life has been incredibly complicated and busy over the past month. I have posted updates in a more timely manner via my Twitter account, as that seems to be the preferred forum of most of my readers… but I’m still a blogger at heart, so I feel bad when I can’t check in here at least once a week or so. Hugo was actually taking a post-Endgame break for a few weeks (or headed straight into rehearsals for the Godot revival) so there hadn’t been an onslaught of new Hugo Weaving news until this past week.

Godot In London

Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Philip Quast and Luke Mullins have arrived in London for the revival of Sydney Theatre Company’s acclaimed production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at The Barbican. Performances begin June 4 (tickets are still available here… I know a lot of you are already going. 😉 Unfortunately it’s financially and logistically impossible for me to cross the pond this time, much as I’d love to.)

We have our first new look at the full cast in costume thanks to this photo from STC Company Manager Colm O’Callaghan, who posted it to this Twitter & instagram feed earlier today:


“Our Beckett groupies at the #Barbican #STC #stcontour #LisaDwan #StillWaitingForGodot” Colm O’Callaghan, via Twitter/Instagram
L to R: Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins, Philip Quast, Lisa Dwan and Hugo Weaving

A week ago, Australian Actors Equity shared a less formal rehearsal photo of the cast, this one in support of the #SaveOurStories cause, which seeks to prevent legislation which could undermine the Australian film industry by removing incentives/rules which until now have required foreign productions filming in Australia to hire local talent. It’s a natural fit for Hugo, who has long championed and supported the local industry, preferred Australian independent film roles and only agreed to participate in the Matrix sequels if they were primarily filmed in Sydney.  You can read more about #SaveOurStories on their Facebook page and here.


“The cast of STC’s Waiting for Godot – Hugo Weaving, Philip Quast, Luke Mullins and Richard Roxburgh – join the fight to #saveourstories” Australian Equity via Twitter/Facebook

My favorite new Godot-linked item is this joint interview of Hugo Weaving and his longtime friend, artist Nicholas Harding, whose rehearsal drawings of Hugo’s recent STC productions are always a highlight of STC’s programmes and promotions. You can read the online version at The Independent and I’ll embed the print version (from The New Review) below; for once I’m happy to report both versions are identical, with The Independent sharing a decent-sized embed of Graham Jepson’s brilliant portrait of the two.


Minor quibble: Hugo and Katrina have been together since 1984, which is over 30 years, not 20. 😉 Would also welcome a cooking or food tourism web series/vlog from these two ever they decide to take an extended break from their day jobs 😉


Obviously taken while Hugo was still in Sydney, at STC’s Wharf Theatre complex. Photo by Graham Jepson

I hope to have updates, reviews and any new photos to share soon. STC’s news blog has a compilation of many of the recent social media postings and other articles about Godot in London.

For now, enjoy these great fan photos:


“Always nice to see an Elvin king in Fortune Park #hugoweaving” Giddy up Coffee via Instagram
Quite relieved Hugo’s given up on trying to give up coffee. 😉


“The boys have appeared on the tube… must mean #STCGodot is getting closer! @BarbicanCentre #ResumeTheStruggle” Lauren Dodds via Twitter

Strangerland at Sydney Film Festival

Though Hugo Weaving’s London commitments make it impossible for him to appear at Strangerland’s Sydney Film Fest premiere on 5 June, the film is already receiving much more favorable notices than the jaundiced hipster crowd at Sundance managed. Here are a few excerpts, with the usual recommendations that you follow the links back to the sites of origin and read the full text.

Matthew Lowe, The Reel Word: “Strangerland is a haunting film filled with spectral imagery, informed in equal parts peripherally by ancient Aboriginal knowledge, by Australian film, and by not too distant cultural epochs such as the Lindy Chamberlain saga. The disappearance of two children here is less the object itself than a catalyst to examine the psychological decay that simmers just below the surface of a small town’s inhabitants, and how that decay –implicitly connected to the land- is also implicitly responsible for the disappearance.

Something is going on, and none of these characters want to tell you what it is. Strangerland is built on suggestions and implications that are only confronted when the issues are forced, and even then, just barely. Not inappropriately, it has the feel of a sinister reverie, and its questions are more powerful for not having unequivocal answers.

That the film is committed to its own ambiguity is what saves certain scenes –notably, episodes of Catherine’s breakdown- from seeming as arbitrary as they might. It is tempting to say it veers on weird for weirds sake, eschewing logic; but the tone is at least consistent in its progression, in its gradual erosion of psyches.

Likewise, those scenes are the only ones where Kidman verges on overacting; but mostly her performance is welcomingly understated. Playing an Australian disarms her of much the conceit she necessarily adopts playing foreign roles: it leaves her more vulnerable. She is better for it, if occasionally histrionic, but well cast, as are Fiennes and Weaving and the rest…. 8/10”

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Jason King, Salty Popcorn: “The film is spectacular, hands down I do believe this will be my favourite Australian movie of 2015 and comes across as this year’s THE ROVER. It is easily one of Kidman’s best performances from an incredible career and she eats the screen in this one. Also seeing her and Weaving act together is like seeing Blanchett and Rush, it is a perfect fit and two actors who not only know each other so well but are so comfortable acting together it is almost natural…

As I said earlier Kidman’s performance is just sublime, she gets bloody raw in this movie and goes for it, she appears more comfortable away form the Hollywood studios. Weaving is always amazing, I just love the guy, and his small town cop, thoroughly enjoyable…

The film captures small town Australian desert/ country life perfectly, the dust storm was a bonus and the isolation was uncomfortable. Farrant’s direction was a triumph and P.J. Dillon’s cinematography is a marvel that is matched by the fine wine of Keefus Ciancia’s music that smothers the movie in long drawn out tension oozing in melancholy and desperation.”

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There’s also an interesting new Kim Farrant interview at The Brag, which notes that at a recent Australian media screening of the film, “as the credits rolled, not just one but two other journalists were reduced to tears by this superb, distressing debut.” Farrant diplomatically discusses the festival receptions to her film thusfar, and her artistic goals in making it.

Strangerland screens on June 5 at SFF with three additional showings (including one with a post-screening Q&A with director Kim Farrant) on the 6th. The film will then tour Australia, mainly via the Palace Cinemas chain, with many websites offering free ticket competitions. (Check my Twitter feed for the latest… or just google Win Strangerland Passes. 😉

Unfortunately, Strangerland’s US distributor doesn’t appear to have anything so inventive scheduled; they’ve already announced an 18 August DVD release (!) following what looks increasingly like a straight-to-VOD launch on 10 July (IMDb shows a “limited” release, so there’s some slight hope for a few arthouses to book the film.) I’d love to be wrong and will share any UIS cinema dates that are announced, but so far I’ve seen nothing. Alchemy doesn’t even list the film on their website, though they’ve posted links to the trailer on Twitter a couple of times. I’m never surprised that US distributors treat Australian films (most foreign films, really) this shabbily, but I’m always disappointed nonetheless.

In Other Hugo Weaving News

Though Hugo Weaving is only mentioned in passing, there’s a great new promotional article about The Dressmaker (featuring and interview with producer Sue Maslin and a new photo of Kate Winslet, Judy Davis and Sarah Snook) at The Screen Blog.  Maslin also discussed actress Sarah Snook’s role, and the film’s all-important costume designs with news.com.au .

Archive Updates

I’ve added a lot of new print material scans to my Hugo Weaving Flickr Archive in the pat week, including the theatre programme for STC’s Endgame (and some promo brochures) a 1994 Priscilla press kit. Just click on the links to view the first item in each set, then use arrow keys to navigate, and click on the image to see the full-sized version.


Hugo Weaving as Hamm in STC’s Endgame (rehearsals) Photo: Lisa Tomasetti