Last night was my first time to the theatre. And what better way to experience it than to have the one, the only, Sir Ian McKellen grace the stage. McKellen starred in the superb production of “Dance of Death” at the Theatre Royal, Sydney.
Before the actors even appeared on stage I could tell by the stage design and dressings that this was going to be a fantastic production. The design and props were very detailed, down to the rust streaked walls from the antique metal staircase. The lighting and sound was also well designed: the warm glow of candlelight played intimately off the actors faces, while the sounds of a raging storm played in the background.
And the actors themselves were amazing. McKellen was the stand out performance (not being biased, of course ) as he convincingly portrayed the arrogant, bitter and sarcastic Edgar, who would stumble awkwardly about the stage as an arthritic old man (although the stumbling was also induced by his hearty drinking habit). McKellen and Frances de la Tour had amazing chemistry and tension as they played the ever-feuding couple, whos combined animosity and hatred had made their 25 years of marriage a living hell. The drab setting reflected the situation in which they had created, ostracising themselves from all aspects of social life.
Their relationship would range from wisecracks and insults, to roaring hatred and abuse. More than once McKellens booming voice made me jump, and I was seated about 50 feet away!
Even through all the fighting and hatred, there were moments of tenderness and intimacy which showed that despite their loathing of one another, they were bound by their complex tapestry of love and hate. As Edgars life fades away you discover that death is the only means of breaking their bond.
McKellen, at times was hilarious as he bantered with his wife, and had the audience in stitches as he paraded around the stage in his officers uniform. In comparison, the scenes where he would collapse into seizure- like fits were very realistic. One was often torn between despising or pitying the couple, as the unsuspecting cousin of Alice, Kurt, experienced. Each character would be very persuasive in their attempts to win his sympathy and turn him against the other.
All in all it was a brilliant production, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity of seeing it.