Joan of Arc as a video game diva with samurai sword and gridiron gear? A hopeless French king as a simpering dandy in bad wig and pink battle fatigues? A cool bag of tricks or just plain try-hard?
Director John Bell doesn’t wait for judgments to congeal.
He leaps straight into a great yarn in this massively cut-down version of Shakespeare’s Henry trilogy.
What survives is an action-packed ride studded with battles and violence, which are sensibly abbreviated by effective stylisation.
England’s trailer trash nobility bash it out with car hubs and chains, dressed in fluorescent footy clobber, beanies and tracksuits.
And yet through this brutish terror there remains enough human moments and personal revelation to give us poignancy and reflection -“ and quite a few laughs.
Bell’s company has come a long way since it started in a tent in 1991, groping with uneven casts and a mishmash of unrelated gimmicks to make Shakespeare modern, even Australian.
Now this company confidently drags us into a bizarrely costumed reality, convinces us these images do match the truth of Shakespeare’s words, and even has the ease to mock their game with good contemporary jokes.
I was hooked within ten minutes.
The star is costume designer, Stephen Curtis.
In good support is the ability of the ensemble, playing many roles, to bring his motley wardrobe alive into characters which have both gravitas and quirky humanity.
Joe Manning as Henry VI, Blazey Best as his leather-clad dominatrix Queen Margaret, Greg Stone as the ambitious York and Robert Alexander as the worthy Exeter are strong performers.
Bell lets all his actors run riot but his director’s skill, this time, is to have them running in the same direction, using all their means to tell a bloody good story.
Wars of the Roses is at the Sydney Opera House until April 16.