REVIEW: The Lovers
The Lovers - Love, Pop and Shakespeare!
Reviewed by Hamish Stewart
The Lovers, written and composed by Laura Murphy and presented by Bell Shakespeare is a new, quirky, energised piece of musical theatre that re-explores Shakespeare’s classic tale of A Midsummer night’s dream in a new, explosive medium.
Pumped with rap, rock, and of course, pop sounds, the show is jam-packed with thriving original songs that truly drive its new, collated story.
With a stellar cast of Natalie Abbott as Helena, Blake Appelqvist as Demetrius, Brittanie Shipway as Hermia, Jerrod Smith as Lysander, Voice Australia Star Stellar Perry as Fairy King, Oberon and Monique Sallé as the mischievous, Puck, the story of The Lovers places emphasis on the well-known characters of the classic Shakespearean tale, stripping back the core story’s outer elements and revealing a heart-warming story of how love and relationships are muddled up in our own, crazy, unpredictable lives.
With Shakespeare in the form of a statue, lingering about in every scene, there is this sense of connection back to the original work. An homage to the core text and the power of retelling, reinterpreting for new audiences and allowing the play to come to life in the way that it is in this piece.
Resonance is a big part of any modern adaptation of a classic story. The Lovers strips away the story’s original sub-characters and outer, meta narrative of a play inside a play, as Shakespeare once devised, and shines a new light on the star-crossed and frantic lovers of the story. This, I feel, was a great choice. Creating this focus allowed for the audience to hone in on the power of love within the story and how its manipulation by magic provides a rich insight into the nature of falling in love and how we navigate through this inner process.
Laura Murphy creates a unique dynamic between Shakespeare’s original and modern language to so intricately and innovatively retell the story for today’s audience. It is this dynamic which makes this concept, this way of retelling traditional stories so newly important.
The Lovers is so rich with original music. With new hits like Down to Love, the audience was at the edge of their seats through every song, twist and turn of the story as it was heightened with a powerful, musical accompaniment.
The stage, eventually littered with pink Christmas trees, set up a dynamic of the mystical forest and a true, robust, visual sense of vastness, an individual forest of love, of life.
Despite a small hiccup with the setting, and a brief pause of the performance, the cast built the energy back up, and the show was revived where it left off. Personally, I think it's good for audiences to experience something like this once in a while. It allows people to see the rawness and truly live aspect that is the living and breathing nature of live theatre.
At the Q&A after the performance, Laura Murphy spoke of the show’s message of exploring the nature of storytellers, of artists, of people looking upon love with this romanticised fantasy of one’s “Happily Ever After”. However, after watching the show I've come to realise that love itself, in the real world, in any world, is messy and isn’t tied up in a bow or, even shaped like a huge red heart. It comes in many forms and is caught across so many different stories.
It would have been great to have delved deeper into the story and the fantasy world onstage, and to really bring the audience in further on the magic and eeriness of it all. Nonetheless, the show ended with a full house standing ovation and was a pleasure to see.
From powerful vocals to quirky comedy and subtle choreography, The Lovers has it all. It is so great to see new Aussie work like this shine on our stages…
The Lovers is playing at Sydney Opera House’s Playhouse theatre until the 20th of November.
Don’t miss out on this fresh piece of Aussie Theatre as it makes its world premiere debut!