Manic Shake­speare

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

HALF of the cast is made from felt so A Mid­sum­mer Mess is def­i­nitely not your typ­i­cal take on a clas­sic.

The mad­cap com­edy is Shake­speare at break­neck speed – with pup­pets.

It is the brain­child of Kings­land­based writer/di­rec­tor Stephen Lunt and is one of the lat­est of­fer­ings from the Auck­land Fringe fes­ti­val.

‘‘If any­one thought Shake­speare was bor­ing be­fore, they cer­tainly won’t think so af­ter,’’ Mr Lunt says.

Three ac­tors and three pup­pets will tackle 12 characters in the one­hour show based on the play A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream.

‘‘It’s a com­pletely busy, far­ci­cal show and I think that’s what adds to the com­edy be­cause it’s three peo­ple do­ing ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing – it gets a bit manic.’’

Mr Lunt was in­spired by the team be­hind the Amer­i­can mu­si­cal Av­enue Q to give tra­di­tion­ally fluffy and love­able pup­pets an edge.

‘‘ A Mid­sum­mer Mess is a bit more adult than A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream – the pup­pets are a bit naugh­tier.

‘‘There is some out­ra­geous ing.’’

The clas­sic play lends it­self to a mod­ern twist, he says. ‘‘I find it hi­lar­i­ous. ‘‘I really like the idea of hav­ing the pup­pet as an ex­ten­sion of the ac­tor’s body and ev­ery­thing they do, the pup­pet does.’’

The English-born ac­tor is a bit of a dab hand at pup­peteer­ing, hav­ing picked up the skill through the­atre and ed­u­ca­tion shows.

Ac­tors must ma­nip­u­late the pup­pets and use their voices and bod­ies to project the char­ac­ter while hold­ing the half-body pup­pets on one arm.

‘‘It’s a steep learn­ing process to get to know the pup­pet and learn the dif­fer­ent tech­niques,’’ Mr Lunt says.

The per­form­ers cer­tainly have their work cut out get­ting to grips with the ma­te­rial on stage but find-

flirt- ing pup­pets that were up to the chal­lenge was a task in it­self.

Mr Lunt was able to pull some strings to track down good qual­ity models which will be used for the play’s three-day run.

Work­ing as a semi-pro­fes­sional ac­tor in New Zealand is a whole world away from the tough scene in the UK, he says.

‘‘There’s a lot more sup­port for the­atre here which is great be­cause it really en­cour­ages writ­ers and ac­tors to go and get more in­volved,’’ Mr Lunt says.

Auck­land Fringe di­rec­tor Michael Keat­ing says Mr Lunt’s A Mid­sum­mer Mess is a great ad­di­tion to the lineup.

‘‘This year’s Fringe is go­ing to be more con­cen­trated and buzzing and shows like this fit really well into

that kind of pro­gramme.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Pup­pet master: Kings­land writer Stephen Lunt is tack­ling Shake­speare with a cast of pup­pets in his show A Mid­sum­mer Mess.

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