Monday, December 17, 2007

Revenge of the Amazons by Jean Betts - A Review

Image by Corey Smith

"Revenge of the Amazons" by Jean Betts and William Shakespeare: a 70's re-working of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Bats Theatre, Wellington, December, 2007.

Originally written by Betts in 1983, "Revenge of the Amazons" premiered that same year at the Circa Theatre in Wellington. This current production was directed by Rachel More and Jacqueline Coats with twenty actors, many award-winning performers. Produced by Greg Wikstrom. Designed by Jennifer Lal. Music by Jamie Burgess.

Seeing "Revenge" makes it all clear why live theatre is vital and healing to our souls. Experiencing a good play where the actors are having as much fun as the audience is a wonderful time well spent. Extremely well written, the theme of love and lust is even funnier when roller skates and a disco ball enter a Shakespearean stage. The wonderful play within the play, by the 'Fallopian Thespians', had me rolling in the aisle in memory (and pain) of consciousness-raising meetings, which I organized in my own home in the U.S. in the 70's.

It is not possible to point to any one actor as rising above the rest since this is a strong collaborative ensemble; however, with that said, because I am a new resident of Wellington and don't toe to any favs (yet), I will say that Tanea Heke as Puck was pure joy. Wearing an Afro wig and a psychedelic body suit, she captured the essence of this mischief-maker each time she roller-skated on the stage. It takes great talent to look like you don't know what you are doing -- and be able to do it so well.

In the program notes, Betts is quoted as saying, she wrote Revenge for fun, mostly to provide the more comic parts for women and a better share of the famous lines. And this she accomplished with humour and an original take on this famous play. I think Shakespeare would have approved every bit. The production has closed now but it's probably one of those plays that you can read with equal enjoyment and experience belly laughs. Available from The Play Press. This organization, founded by Jean Betts, is devoted to publishing, new and innovative NZ work. Check it out:

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