Life's A Dream
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre
Until April 10
Warning: When they say this play contains loud noises, they mean it. Vigorous and intense, Life's a Dream, written by Spaniard Pedro Calderon de la Barca in 1636 and set in Poland, is an exhilarating tragi-comic ride offering both brutality and humour, and this Silo Theatre production sets the right tone for both.
The cast - made up of young unknowns, many fresh out of drama school – started with a little trepidation but once they got into the swing of things, their relish of cliches as old as Homer was infectious: there are women disguised as men, a royal son imprisoned to prevent his predicted doom, "blatant lover" liars, a foolhardy jester, ambitious would-be monarchs and a palpable lack of guards, just when they're needed most.
The seemingly uncontrollable fate of man is the play's preoccupation, and if misery loves company, misfortune loves an audience to complain to. Luckily no tedium ensues as Australian playwright Beatrix Christian's adaptation of the play is successfully poetic, and it abounds with images: honour is fragile "blown glass"; a gun is a "metal serpent". The mix of Shakespearean language and anachronistic 1930s-inflecked chic is reminiscent of the stylish 1995 film Richard III (especially as Natalie Medlock as the lovesick Princess Estrella is a dead ringer for Kristen Scott Thomas). On a deliberately sparse stage which cages vulnerable characters in with spectators on three sides, no extraneous details distract from Victoria Ingram's elegant costumes and Jeremy Fern's creative lighting design.
Under the direction of Michael Hurst, the cast does a respectable job of articulating a wordy script that would challenge a far more experienced group. In particular, Fern Sutherland as the astrologer queen, Sam Snedden as the chained Caliban/ potential Caligula character and Johnny Bright as Clotaldo ,the jailer torn between duty and love, deliver their self-commentaries with clarity and authority.
This whirlwind flamenco masquerading as mazurka finishes with a triumphant flourish and stomp. Ole!
Life's A Dream