Arts / ‘Lakespeare’ makes a comeback

Lexi Sekuless (as Beatrice) and Duncan Driver (Benedick) in Shakespeare’s most popular battle-of-the-sexes comedy “Much Ado About Nothing”. Photo by Emily Hanna

A LONG-neglected Canberra tradition of summery Shakespeare by Lake Burley Griffin is about to be revived by an enterprising group of local creators.

Self-styled impresario Taimus Werner-Gibbings and Shakespeare scholar Duncan Driver have been inspired by the late Joseph Papp’s famous – and free – invention, “Shakespeare in the Park” in New York City.

The idea was first pitched by Werner-Gibbings, a former candidate for the ACT Legislative Assembly, who had performed in productions of “Breaker Morant” and “Rent” with Everyman Theatre, after a visit to New York in summer this year. While riding his scooter around Tuggeranong Town Park, he thought “it would be nice to do something like that for Tuggeranong” and it didn’t take much persuading for Driver to come on board.

“CityNews” caught up with Driver recently as he was grappling with the nuances of “Much Ado About Nothing”, the play chosen for the project to launch “Shakespeare by the Lakes” in Tuggeranong Town Park, Glebe Park and possibly by the river in Queanbeyan during February.

With a PhD on “Hamlet” from the ANU, Driver is confident that Shakespeare can still communicate with broader audiences.

Another actor friend, Lexi Sekuless, a first-class honours graduate of London’s Central School of Speech and Drama who played Lady Anne in “Richard III” at the Globe Theatre, shares his views.

No surprises, Sekuless will play Beatrice and Driver her sparring partner Benedick in Shakespeare’s most popular battle-of-the-sexes comedy.

It’s no picnic putting on a major Shakespeare play, so the “Lakespeare Team” threw themselves into a crowdfunding project to pay for the necessary amplification and raised $7000, just over their target.

Driver admiringly describes Werner-Gibbings as “a natural dynamo of production and publicity” but he also keeps a sharp eye on money, estimating the budget at $25,000 with the biggest costs sound and lights.

Driver and Sekuless are nothing if not true believers in the Bard.

“Our main guide has been to use the text to guide us and not to impose ourselves too much on the play,” he says.

“There have been wonderful productions by the Sydney Theatre Company which give a director’s vision, but we think everything is written for us in the work of William Shakespeare… if we speak the lines well and have an understanding of the poetry, we can let the play do its work.”

It’s not just the pair of them – they’ve also pulled in versatile Canberra actors such as Helen McFarlane, Jerry Hearn and “CityNews” writer John Lombard, who will play the villainous Borachio.

“Lexi and I worked together before on ‘The Seven-Year Itch’ and ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’, so we respect the way we work. We’ve done a little editing so that this will be a tight 90-minute version but it’s still the real “Much Ado about Nothing”, Driver says.

“Much Ado about Nothing”, Tuggeranong Town Park Community Stage, Wednesday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day) and Thursday, February 15; Glebe Park Community Stage, Friday, February 16 and Saturday, February 17. All performances start at 6.30pm. Free, no bookings required, BYO picnic and deckchair.

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