Wittenberg by David Davalos
Presented by Brevity Theatre Co in association with Sydney Independent Theatre Company
Until 25 January 2014
“Words, words, words. Very revealing.”
I hated the last show I saw at SITCO. The actors were green and the play was ordinary. I was distracted at several points by incessant chatter and idiotic giggling from the ensemble backstage. I came out angry and resolved not to return.
I approached the subsequent SITCO 2014 Season launch with an indignant side-eye. In spite of myself, I found my interest piqued. Fast forward to last night, faced with a free evening and curiosity fed by the buzz around Facebook for this production, I found myself back at the Old Fitz just a few months after swearing off the place. I’m very glad I did.
Wittenberg follows a young Hamlet (Alexander Butt) struggling to decide on a major at Germany’s Wittenberg university. In his possession is a revolutionary manuscript by Copernicus. The student Hamlet ruminates over the choice between studying theology under religious reformer Martin Luther (Nick Curnow), or philosophy under passionate individualist Dr John Faustus (David Woodland). Littered with (often amusing) with literary references to writers such as Shakespeare (obviously), Luther & Marlowe, this rich, complex and clever play explores variously themes of philosophy, theology, psychology, literature and the self, as the two academics passionately vie for Hamlet’s academic fealty. Even for those not familiar with any of the above, David Davalos’ script is a feast of ideas – the writing stands alone as impelling and thoroughly stimulating.
Solid performances from all four actors (five, if you include Hamlet’s off-stage sporting rival) cement this as a fine production indeed. Nick Curnow finds a beautifully human side of the devoutly religious Martin Luther, and Woodland’s intelligent, arrogant, and utterly sexy Dr Faustus has the audience in the palm of his hand from the outset. The man also does a mean blues scale, complete with ukelele. Alexander Butt plays a suitably conflicted and indecisive Hamlet, and Lana Kershaw is an adroit ‘Eternal Feminism’. In his program notes, Director Richard Hilliar speaks to the merit in sticking to ‘simple’ choices. These choices, coupled with the impressive handling of pace and timing by an experienced and talented ensemble, are a feast. The set, crafted by Benjamin Brockman takes on an almost haunting beauty (I’m sure I’m not the only one who went in for a cheeky closer look at those hanging pages), and simple, complementary lighting & sound serves as the icing atop this delicious production.
I really like intelligent theatre and this was a satisfying night out. Grab a ticket – the houses for this one will be full with or without you.
Ticket Price: $32 (or $39 Dinner + Show)/ $21 Cheap Tuesday
Mobile Phone Rudeness Count (MPRC): 1
POST SCRIPT: The kitchen has changed hands some time in the last few months, and unless you’re really into deep fried cuisine (namely spring rolls and curry puffs from the freezer aisle), skip the Dinner + Show ticket option.