THEATRE REVIEW: The facts of life acted out Candide-ly

ALTERNATIVE HAMLET: The cast of Act II Theatre Company's production of Voltaire's classic play, Candide.  Photo supplied.
ALTERNATIVE HAMLET: The cast of Act II Theatre Company's production of Voltaire's classic play, Candide. Photo supplied.
  • A drama about the measured response between optimism and pessism
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ALTERNATIVE HAMLET: The cast of Act II Theatre Company’s production of Voltaire’s classic play, Candide. Photo supplied.

Act II Theatre Company really set the bar high with their latest production based on work by the 17th century French philosopher Voltaire.

Candide (played by Dominic Thorpe), directed by Karl Gernert and adapted from a stage play by Scott Hunter, tells the story of how the illegitimate nephew of a German baron discovers that life can be “the best of all possible worlds”. Through a series of wrong turns, poor judgement and questionable advice, Candide and his faithful sidekick Cacambo (Koren Little) experience shipwrecks and pirates, war, passion, fortune and execution, all to end up with his love, the baron’s young daughter Cunégonde (Holly Maguire).

Candide’s missteps appear to have been triggered by the “wise words” of famed philosopher Dr Pangloss (Jasmine Morley) who narrates the drama, alongside the baron’s chambermaid Paquette (Jess Toomey) and the strangely named Old Woman with No Name and Only One Buttock (Paige Burgess).

Taking elements from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth, before mixing them in with real life history from the Russian Revolution and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary which led to World War I, Candide was a rollercoaster ride that challenged Act II’s drama group like never before.

When you consider that previous drama group productions included A Midsummer Night’s Dream (June 2005), The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (May 2009), Treasure Island (November 2012) and, most recently, Peter Pan (April 2017), Candide represented a journey into the unknown for young actors aged between 11 and 16.

This group has never been one to shy away from a challenge, so an adaptation of the magnum opus (masterpiece) of one of the greatest philosophers of the French Enlightenment seemed, in many ways, a perfect fit

Karl Gernert, director of Candide

But despite dealing with issues such as capital punishment, contagious diseases, mass murder and even cannibalism (just ask the old woman with one buttock), the cast navigate their way through some dark, adult themes.

Candide was a chance for drama group members to either enhance or establish their reputation for bigger and better things with Act II in the future, especially the players cast as Candide, Cunégonde and Cacambo.

But there was also rich promise to be found in the supporting cast, particularly India Brown (The Pirate King), Scarlett Bergin (Heinrich), Alfie Brooks (The Revolutionary Commander), Joe Smith (The French Inspector), Lauren Harvey (French mime artist Miss Rattoli) and Rosie Roulstone (Martin, the hyperactive pessimist).

In summary, the young Act II cast did their best with what the director described in his programme notes as a “vast sprawling epic, with over 100 characters, five continents and a whole host of events”.

Review by Winston Brown

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