Staging a high energy Shakespearian comedy followed by an award-winning Sondheim musical may seem like a challenge of titanic proportions, but it is one that the Fortune Theatre is rising to with the help of its “2017 Fortune Theatre Company”. The hugely popular production of Twelfth Night and the upcoming Into the Woods, mark the return of company-based theatre to Dunedin’s professional stage.
The brainchild of Fortune’s Artistic Director Jonathon Hendry, the Fortune Company brings together a number of talented actors from all around New Zealand. The Fortune Theatre has had companies in the past, although 2017 marks the first time in a number of years, as Company Acting has become something of a rarity across the board. Hendry himself grew up as the Company system was disappearing in New Zealand.
In Febuary 2017, the Fortune Theatre ran national auditions in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland where they saw an unprecedented number of actors apply to join the Company. The successful 2017 Company members are Julie Edwards, Joshua Cramond, Jonathan Martin, Peter Hayden, Frith Horan, Bryony Skillington and Cherie Moore. “some of the best acting talent, both locally and nationally” Hendry says.
It is a unique way of working, allowing the actors to grow together over an extended period of time, developing trust and a dynamic that creates a special energy when performing. All aspects of the theatre process benefit from the company, whether it be actors learning from each other, a director working with a group who is already in sync and comfortable with one another, or the audience who gets to develop a closer relationship to their local theatre through familiar faces. Not to mention it gives the actors an opportunity to explore a variety of roles together and showcases their versatility; as Hendry wrote in the Twelfth Night programme, “how many actors can claim to have been hired to be a Shakespearian Count then a singing wolf and cow?” The Company system also supports local acting talent providing consistent employment, something which is not easily found in New Zealand.
A major benefit of the Company system has allowed the Fortune to stage Into the Woods (a large production) so quickly after Twelfth Night. For a number of weeks, the company was rehearsing the musical during the day and performing the Shakespeare classic in the evenings.
Audiences will definitely see the hard work and long days pay off as the Sondheim masterpiece opens on the 5th of August and runs until the 26th. After the success of Twelfth Night, Into the Woods is definitely not to be missed.