Richard, Professor of Literature

Australian Stage – April 2013
By Trevar Alan Chilver

Those who enjoy a good lecture will be decidedly disappointed by this seminar on classic Shakespearean plots. Those who detest a good lecture, however, should be tickled pink by the Professor’s quirky wit and humour, and his delightful playfulness with improvised puppets.

The Professor introduces himself as he enters the auditorium. One audient at a time. That is, until he realizes just how many audients there are. He establishes a fine and easy rapport before beginning to mumble and struggle for words, at which point, he demonstrates. The pattern is repeated as he introduces William Shakespeare (himself, wearing a mask that he prepares on the spot), and proceeds to deliver overviews of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Richard III using masks and puppets that he largely prepares on the spot for the purpose, all from everyday objects. I must say, I’ve never seen a copy of The Australian repurposed quite so well.

The solo performer, Stéphane Georis, is a master of storytelling and puppetry. His repartee is as engaging as it is clever and the choice of objects is remarkably appropriate. Few of us would consider a rolled loin of pork to be a fit cast for Richard III, but it serves the purpose of depicting a murderous clutch of royals unnervingly well. It doesn’t just work visually; as funny as it might be, it makes a rather gruesome statement about the transfer of political power that serves as a timely reminder of the futility of political endeavour in an election year.

Canberra is lucky to have this talented Belgian performing this production here, but if your response is anything like mine, you’ll probably be looking for his touring schedule to see if you can make it to any of the other shows in Stéphane Georis’ trilogy. His time in Canberra is limited, so get along if you can.