Search This Blog

Notice of Annual General Meeting - 31/3/19

The Annual General Meeting of the Graduate Dramatic Society will be held on

Sunday 31st March 2019 at 2 pm 
At the Shakespeare Garden, University of Western Australia.

The Shakespeare Garden is the Arts Department courtyard at the rear of the New Fortune stage, where we are currently performing our acclaimed production of The Merchant of Venice. It is an attractive and appropriate venue in which to consider our future.

We encourage you to attend and help us follow through on our successful year returning to the University as the home of Grads. We have had three successful seasons and look forward, with your help, to many more. If you are not currently a member, you can join on the day.


Reviews - The Merchant of Venice

Kimberley Shaw, Stage Whispers

The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lucy Eyre

New Fortune Theatre, University of Western Australia. March 7-16, 2019

The Merchant of Venice is perhaps one of the less frequently performed Shakespeare plays, mostly because of the obvious anti-Semitic feeling. This production is set in Venice, but in 1938, and is set alongside anti-Jewish policies in Mussolini’s Italy, the visit of Hitler to Italy and the looming shadow of the Second World War. Played in the beautiful outdoor New Fortune Theatre, which mimics the dimensions of the 1600 Fortune Theatre, on a warm Mediterranean-like evening, it is the perfect setting for some good Shakespearean Theatre.

Judd Milner (R) as Shylock, with Eddie Stowers as Tubal
Lucy Eyre is an intelligent and thoughtful director, and she has chosen a cast that are strong and effective, many of whom might be termed Shakespeare Specialists. Leading the cast are Barry Park, as the complex, likeable but flawed, Antonio, an excellent rival to the conniving but very sympathetic Judd Millner as Shylock - in a very strong performance. Catalyst character Bassanio is given Latin charm and lovely depth by (a largely unrecognisable) Thomas Dimmick in an impressive Shakespearean debut.

Grace Edwatds (R) as Portia, with Melissa Merchant as Nerissa
Particularly impressive are Grace Edwards, as a very clever and admirable Portia and Melissa Merchant as her maid and companion Nerissa. Lovely comedic work from this pair, with expertly layered performances. The other women, especially Abbey McCaughan’s beautifully poignant Jessica, and Solange Burns’ - in a fascinating interpretation of Launcelot, also deliver strong performances.

Barry Park (L) as Antonio and Thomas Dimmick as Bassanio
Steven Hounsome (L) as Lorenzo with Abby McCaughan (centre) as Jessica
Other standouts include Steven Hounsome’s earnest and genuine Lorenzo, Eddie Stowers’ delightfully obnoxious Prince of Arragon, and Neale Paterson’s excellent doubling of Old Gobbo and The Duke. Strong support from Patrick Downes as Salarino, Malek Domkoc - a stunning Prince of Morocco, Sarah Thillagaratnam, dancers and members of the entourage.

Solonje Burns (L) as Launcelot with Neale Paterson as Old Gobbo
Eddie Stowers (R) as the Prince of Arragon
Malek Domkoc (centre) as the Prince of Morocco

Patrick Downes (L) and Mark Fitzpatrick as Solanio and Salarino
Gary Wetherilt’s set design complements the venue well, and Mark Nicholson’s lighting is impressive in a temporary rig. Costumes, by Merri Ford, are thoughtfully created, are true to the era and are instrumental in setting the scene.

A must-see for Shakespeare lovers, but Grads’ The Merchant of Venice is a great choice for anyone who loves intelligent, thought-provoking theatre. The lovely setting is a great bonus.

Kimberley Shaw


Jarrod Buttery (from Facebook)

Every so often you see a play that punches you in the guts and takes your breath away.  The Merchant of Venice (Graduate Dramatic Society) is masterfully put together but still a dark, confronting story.  Judd Millner is superbly sympathetic as Shylock, who, after a lifetime of being vilified, sees an opportunity for retribution -- and is crushed in the attempt.  The ferocity of the forces arrayed against him is heartbreaking.

Another surprise is that the nicest man in Perth Theatre, Barry Park, so chillingly portrays one of Shakespeare's nastiest characters -- a diametric opposite to his good self -- effortlessly done with Barry's innate skill of delivering difficult text as if it was day-to-day language.  He is well supported by an authoritative Thomas Dimmick as Bassanio.

But if the play belongs to anyone it is Grace Edwards as Portia.  One disadvantage of the outdoor New Fortune Theatre is the occasional echo, but Grace's powerful delivery and commanding stage presence dominated every scene.  Again, Grace was intimately supported (in more ways than one) by the voluptuous Dr Melissa Merchant as handmaid Nerissa, who also provided much of the meagre comedy in this very dark play.

Everyone was fabulous!  I believe there was a cast of 23!  I counted 14 men alone in the courtroom scene!  Quick mentions to the delightfully wicked Eddie Stowers as a cheeky suitor, and Solonje Burns in one of Shakespeare's trademark eccentric roles perfectly suited to her compelling voice and physicality.

Yes, it's a dark play, but it's a subject that should not be ignored or forgotten.  And if you make it along to this exceptional production -- it won't be.  Congratulations to director Lucy Eyre and everyone involved.

Jarrod Buttery

The Merchant of Venice - 7-10 & 13-16 March at the New Fortune


or call 6488 2440 between 12pm and 4pm weekdays.

When: 7-10 March and 13-16 March 2019, 7.30pm

Where: The New Fortune Theatre, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley, 6009.

Who will win Portia's hand? The heiress to a large fortune is forced into marriage by an unorthodox method, stipulated by her late father, attracting suitors from all over the world, including Bassanio, which sets in motion a fateful transaction. The merchant, Antonio, must default on the large loan from Shylock, the Jewish moneylender he abused, but instead, the vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment. A thrilling climax that tests the laws of Venice at a time when the rise of fascism in Europe threatens to quash the bohemian lifestyle of Venetians, and to embolden anti-Semitic attitudes that are waiting to surface.

Adapted and directed by WAAPA graduate Lucy Eyre, this contemporary production of “The Merchant of Venice” is set in 1938. Don’t miss one of Shakespeare's most important plays performed on a unique stage: The New Fortune Theatre at the University of Western Australia, which is a reconstruction of the Fortune Playhouse built in London in 1600.

Photography by Myles Wright

Merchant of Venice - Extra Audition Times

If you were unable to book a time on Saturday 10th or Sunday 11th of November, we have added extra times between 7pm and 10pm on Monday the 12th:


Note that the venue is different: Subiaco Community Centre, 203 Bagot Road, Subiaco.

Image result for merchant of venice

Blak Yak's 'Henry V' - October 2018

Henry V, by William Shakespeare
Directed by Paul Treasure for Blak Yak Theatre
Shenton Park Community Centre, October 2018

Reviewed by Neale Paterson

Image result for blak yak theatre

On the night that I saw Henry V, the role of the Chorus was played by the director, Paul Treasure, book in hand, filling in for a sick actor. I was surprised that it hadn’t been done that way all along: who better than the director, holding his well-thumbed rehearsal script, to step before the audience and apologise for the ‘limitations’ of a group of modern actors performing a classic piece in a tiny venue with almost no resources. It summed up perfectly the low-fi theatricality of the enterprise.

The script that he was holding was, for me, the play’s most important prop. Because this performance was all about the text, performed uncut, with all of Shakespeare's extraordinary and often infuriating circumlocutions and digressions and its disconcerting lurches between high drama and low comedy. Henry is a well-known play, simple enough in outline, but almost never performed in its entirety. To perform the play this way, in these circumstances, with a mostly inexperienced cast, may have been a folly, but by the end of three hours the ambition of the production worked a spell over me. I thought only Grads did these sort of shows... 

The performance starts slowly, in typical Shakespearean fashion - minor characters discoursing obscurely and at length before the real action starts. The actors did what they could to spice up the interminable ‘Salic Law’ scene, but in any performance where it isn’t radically pruned this is just a scene to be got through. The appearance of tennis balls kicked things into gear. "Anyone for war with France?"

Obviously, this play is a showpiece for the actor playing Henry - although it was interesting to see that, in an uncut version, the role is less dominant than it otherwise appears. This was definitely an ensemble piece, not a star vehicle. Declan Water’s Henry was a strong and sustained performance. While I wished at times for a more naturalistic diction - which he achieved well in the ‘night before the battle scene’, as a commoner - his delivery of the Hamlet-sized slabs of verse was always well-thought-out and well-modulated, never descending into gabble.

Of course it is the comic characters who really get things going. Alan Gill, Andre Victor, Fiona Johnson, Stacy Broomhead and Vee McGuire, as the Eastcheap Ratpack, delivered the true Shakespearean comic experience, in all its outrageousness and violence and weirdness. And James Hagan as Fluellen, later in the play - I cannot imagine this preposterous Welshman being better played. His ridiculous characterisation was perfectly conveyed. Even in the rather appalling leek-assault scene, where his comic monstrousness becomes simply monstrous, he managed to turn it around at the end and leave on a surprisingly gentle laugh. A lot of Fluellen’s lines tend to get cut in sensible productions, but performed in its entirety this absurd comic role is second only to Henry’s.

Shakespeare is strange.

Jess Lally, as Katharine, gave an absolutely bravura performance in her French scenes, with Fiona Forster’s Alice the perfect foil. The audience-involvement ‘body-parts’ scene was basically a short play in its own right. I have never seen it done with such comic verve.

Life is too short to mention individually the large cast playing an even larger number of roles - all those attendant lords and Frenchmen! - but I can say that they all demonstrated absolute commitment and dignity and intelligence and humour, and a proper understanding of the verse, even in the stretches of the play that seemed to - stretch. I was very taken with Solonje Burns’ intense stage presence, particularly as Williams.

The staging was simple, with the cast sitting on the small stage facing the audience and stepping down onto the floor level for the main action. I have not seen a performance of this scale in the Shenton Park Community Centre, but it was a perfectly adequate venue.

This Henry was big, messy, risky, uneven and overlong. I know that some in the audience found it a slog. But there were so many good things in it - such commitment to the text and to the performances - that I am prepared to applaud its vaulting ambition in a little room. It was one of those performances where, thinking back over it, you keep remembering all sorts of wonderful things that almost escaped you at the time, lost in the overwhelming wash of Shakespearean-ism. This play had Shakespeare coming out the wazoo...

AUDITIONS - The Merchant of Venice - March 2019

Auditions for The Merchant of Venice 
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lucy Eyre

Performance dates
Weeks of 4th and 11th of March 2019

Audition venue
The Palms Community Centre, corner Nicholson and Rokeby roads, Subiaco.

Audition times
Saturday 10 November, 12:15pm - 4:30pm
Sunday 11 November, 1:45pm-3:45pm

Audition requirement
Please memorise a 2 - 3 minute Shakespearean monologue.

Bassanio, a young Venetian, needs a loan so that he can pursue Portia, a wealthy Venetian heiress, and secure his own financial future. He approaches his friend Antonio, a merchant, who, at the time, is short of money because all his wealth is invested in his fleet, which is currently at sea. Bassanio and Antonio are forced to go to Jewish money lender, Shylock, who hates Antonio because of Antonio’s anti-semitic behaviour towards him. Nevertheless, Shylock agrees to make the loan on the condition that the loan be repaid in three months or Shylock will exact a pound of flesh from Antonio. Antonio agrees, confident that his ships will return in time.

This contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play will be set in the late 1930’s and explore different facets of discrimination that, when challenged, aim to preserve wealth and power in the hands of the few.

Character list
Shylock, a Jewish moneylender in Venice; - aged 40-60
Jessica, Shylock’s daughter; - aged 20-25
Portia, a wealthy Venetian heiress; - aged 20-35
Nerissa, Portia’s friend; - aged 20-35
Balthazar, works for Portia; - aged 30-50
Antonio, a Venetian merchant; - aged 30-50
Solanio, a friend of Antonio’s; - aged 30-50
Salerio, another merchant of Venice, and friend of Antonio and Bassanio; - aged 30-50
Bassanio, a young Venetian; - aged 20-30
Gratiano, a friend of Bassanio; - aged 20-40
Lorenzo, a friend of Bassanio in love with Shylock’s daughter Jessica; - aged 20-30
Leonardo, works for Bassanio; - aged 20-40
Prince of Morocco, a suitor to Portia’s hand; - aged 20-50
Prince of Arragon, a prince of Spain and a suitor to Portia’s hand; - aged 20-50
Duke of Venice, a bureaucrat; - aged 30-60
Tubal, a wealthy Jew of Venice and Shylock’s friend; - aged 40-60
Launcelot Gobbo, works for Shylock; - aged 20-30
Old Gobbo, Launcelot’s father, an old, blind man; - aged 50-70

The director
Lucy Eyre is a director, playwright, performer, producer and researcher. Lucy's directing credits include: Conundrum at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA); Shift Swapping by David Ryding at The Blue Room Theatre; No Refunds by Trent Burton at the Regal Theatre; The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband by Debbie Isitt at the Sun Room in Maylands; Return to Sender by Anne Sorenson at the Midland Railway Workshops and for the WA Fringe and Perth International Arts Festivals; and in 2014 Lucy adapted and directed Shakespeare’s Othello for the Hills Shakespeare 450th Anniversary Festival.

In 2017 Lucy graduated from WAAPA with a PhD in Performing Arts and is currently employed as a Casual Lecturer at WAAPA and Edith Cowan University. Lucy is also the WA editor and reviewer for the national theatre website:

Announcing The Merchant of Venice - March 2019

As our critically acclaimed production of Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’ in the Dolphin Theatre comes to an end, we are starting to prepare for a summer season. 

For twenty years, between 1996 and 2015, Grads presented an outdoor production of a Shakespeare play (and one Marlowe). We will reinstate this tradition with our forthcoming production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, to be directed by Lucy Eyre, in early March 2019. 

Auditions will be held in November. Details will be announced soon.

Check out and like our Facebook page for timely updates: