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Evensong by Glenn McKenzie - Melbourne Fringe Review

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by Aridhi Anderson (subscribe)
Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at
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Scenes, sonnets, songs by Shakespeare, Dowland and Purcell

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts" (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII). Evensong is a solo show by Glenn McKenzie in which he is one man playing many parts, in an enchanting performance combining scenes and sonnets by William Shakespeare, and the music of Henry Purcell and John Dowland, creatively interpreted for a modern musical context.

Evensong by Glenn McKenzie at the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2018.
Evensong by Glenn McKenzie at the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2018.

Evensong is an esoteric show, and McKenzie opens the evening by sharing how personal this work is to him, its composition inspired by his own experiences when he was homeless. It is evident from his soulful performance that he has chosen texts and music that resonate deeply with him. He skillfully weaves them all together using a fictitious account of Shakespeare's muse Mr WH, "the master-mistress of his passion" (Sonnet 20), as a base for the show. He journeys through scenes from several of Shakespeare's plays, such as Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It among others, and a number of his sonnets. McKenzie interleaves animated reading, storytelling, scene enactment, and stunning countertenor singing, sometimes accompanied by recorded backing tracks, and at other times accompanied by his own keyboard playing.

This show is a unique experience. It follows a logical path, and the contemporary English narrations about Mr. WH and William Shakespeare are both interesting and easy to follow. But the original texts and most of the songs stand on their own and have a hypnotic, almost elusive charm about them. For those who are unfamiliar with the base texts, the performance is enjoyable in the way abstract art is - you might not fully understand it, but it has enough inherent life and beauty to capture your attention and imagination anyway. For those who are familiar with the texts, however, McKenzie's performance compellingly brings them to life. I found myself alternating between the two experiences - I was absolutely delighted with the sonnets, the "All The World's A Stage" monologue (As You Like It), and perhaps above all, the performance of Ophelia's madness upon learning of her father's death (Hamlet). The scenes and songs I wasn't as familiar with, however, felt mysterious and yet remained captivating.

McKenzie is an enthralling performer and is able to achieve wonderful things with his voice and body, without leaning on sets, fancy lighting, or changes of costume. By way of props, he has a single skull on a stick, which he effectively uses to symbolize various things over the course of the show. He switches between characters with remarkable ease and impact, persuasively playing different ages, themes, emotions, and even genders, gracefully and artfully. His performance style is uninhibited, strongly characterized, dramatic, but never confronting. His vocal skills are rock solid, and his singing is mesmerizing - easily the highlight of the show.

This show is best suited to audiences that love Shakespeare/17th century music and literature, and are looking for a dignified, elegant, and thoroughly authentic performance by a distinctly accomplished artist.
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Why? Shakespeare and mesmerizing vocals
When: 25-27 September 2018
Phone: (03) 9660 9666
Where: Gasworks Arts Park - ARB Gallery, 21 Graham St Albert Park 3206
Cost: $28.50
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