The Alchemist: His Majesty’s Theatre

When you receive an offer out of the blue to ‘help’ someone from another country transfer their money out of their country, in return for a lump sum payment. Are you tempted?
The Alchemist: His Majesty’s Theatre
Bell Shakespeare and Queensland Theatre Company present The Alchemist a Ben Jonson play. Ben Jonson, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, robust sense of humour, zest for life and revelry in violent, colourful language is encapsulated in a play about any time in history. When you receive an offer out of the blue to ‘help’ someone from another country transfer their money out of their country, in return for a lump sum payment. Are you tempted? Australians lose millions of dollars each year in email and internet scams, making Ben Jonson’s classic comedy about a pair of not-so-cunning con men just as relevant today as when it was written. As John Bell, the director of this and numerous Shakespearian plays under the banner of the Bell Shakespeare Company states, Ben Jonson’s regular targets are greed and hypocrisy. In this play he adds gullibility, an enduring human foible. How desperate we still are to believe horoscopes, fortune tellers, TV evangelists, politicians and salesmen of every sort who promise to make our dreams come true, turn lead into gold. Jonson’s sharp humour is laugh-out-loud funny and seems incredibly attuned to the cynical disillusions of our own age. The details of the scam may have changed with time, but the mechanics of the con, and the gullibility of human nature, remain the same. Subtle, the supposed alchemist, and his partner, Face, are masters of disguise. Aided by a call-girl, Dol Common, they are forced into ever more convoluted scams as they struggle to stay one step ahead of greedy patrons, hypocritical clergymen and the long arm of the law. The play is a studio apartment style space encapsulates a ‘concoction of creation’ (designer Bruce McKiniven) on its mirrored backdrop where remedies and theorizing from the alchemist (Patrick Dickson) are etched playfully yet always for maximum impact to his callers. Dickson is highly genial and contained, a bit like a sophisticated Fagin, with his wackiness in his portrayal and his fellow conman Face (Andrew Tighe) is a effortless performer with a ease to his devious mayhem, only matched by the divine, sharply focussed Dol Common (Georgina Symes) with her subtle and supple manoeuvres and swag in that adorable red dress. This symbolic item speaks of the physical fluidity that the ebb and flow that all the performers create on stage, only matched by the lively and comfortable delivery of this lengthy tale with Sir Epicure Mammon a prize caricature personage fleshed out by David Whitney a stand out. The quality of the professionals in this production reflects what world class talent we have in this country able to deliver an English classic The Alchemist which was first produced at Shakespeare’s Globe whose motto was “All the world’s a stage”… and treats life as a piece of theatre, and the passage of time spent in the theatre only occasionally overspent more due to the script than the consummate ensemble cast. His Majesty’s Theatre presents a Bell Shakespeare and Queensland Theatre Company co-production: The Alchemist BY BEN JONSON DIRECTED BY JOHN BELL WITH PATRICK DICKSON & ANDREW TIGHE DIRECTOR: JOHN BELL DESIGNER: BRUCE MCKINVEN LIGHTING DESIGNER: MATT SCOTT ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: CHRISTINA KOCH FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHER: SCOTT WITT CAST: SANDRO COLARELLI, PATRICK DICKSON, RUSSELL KIEFEL, PETER KOWITZ, BRYAN PROBETS, LIZ SKITCH, LUCAS STIBBARD, RICHARD SYDENHAM, GEORGINA SYMES, ANDREW TIGHE, DAVID WHITNEY AND SCOTT WITT When: Friday 15 May to Saturday 23 May 2009 Performance Times: Friday 15 May, 7.30pm; Saturday 16 May, 2pm & 7.30pm; Monday 18 May, 6.30pm; Tuesday 19 May-Friday 22 May, 7.30pm; Saturday 23 May, 2pm & 7.30pm. Where: His Majesty’s Theatre, 825 Hay St, Perth Bookings: BOCS Ticketing 9484 1133 or visit the BOCS website, or at any BOCS outlet

Gillian Clark

Wednesday 20 May, 2009

About the author

Gill Clark is an arts hub reviewer based in Perth.