SHAKESPEARE in the Park is making a dramatic comeback, with Fremantle’s new civic heart set to play a lead role.
Fremantle Theatre Company is bringing back what was once a must-see on WA’s arts calendar and has signed up tv star Joel Jackson for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which will have a season in Walyalup Koort from January 12-15 before heading to its traditional home at Kings Park.
WA-born Jackson won an AACTA Award for best lead actor and a Logie as best newcomer for portraying Peter Allen in Channel 7’s 2015 TV biopic about the Aussie music legend, and garnered nominations and acclaim for his portrayal of WWI historian Charles Bean in Deadline Gallipoli.
While he hasn’t performed Shakespeare since his days at the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Jackson said he’s always been drawn to the style of language captured by the Renaissance genius. It’s reflected in his own music, having grown up planning to tour the world as a rockstar.
“It’s those kinds of stories that are inside of a song, and folklore that’s inside of a song – Paul Kelly, Neil Young – all that stuff to me is massive,” Jackson said.
“It’s about understanding the context, understanding the language; and once you have that, it’s really special to share with an audience.”
Jackson says it was an easy decision to work with the FTC; he and artistic director Renato Fabretti were at NIDA together and while in the audience for its last production Meat he spotted several other actors and crew he’d worked alongside in the past.
“Coming through the doors again, this feels like home,” he now says of the company’s headquarters in Victoria Hall.
It’s also something of a homecoming for Shakespeare as well; back in the early noughties Deckchair Theatre took over running the Kings Park shows and was based in the same historic venue.
Fabretti cut his acting teeth belting out the bard for Deckchair and says performing Midsummers under the stars keeps actors on their toes.
“If a duck interrupts you, you learn your place on the hierarchy of comedy very quickly and either meet the duck at its level, or fail,” he laughs.
He’s looking forward to staging the production in Walyalup Koort, saying his Italian heritage is steeped in the “piazza philosophy” of bringing citizens together in the middle of town.
New Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said scoring a season of Shakespeare was an endorsement of the council’s square revamp.
“I think this will be a real showcase for how the square can be adapted to do all kinds of different activities,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.
“I think one of the things about the civic centre, Walyalup Koort, is it’s such an adaptable space, so we’ll see the long table dinner there in the next few weeks, we’ll see the playground opening, the Christmas activation.”
She says councils that try to fill their town squares by themselves tend to fail, so having an organisation like FTC applying to use the space was encouraging.
by STEVE GRANT