Savage God: The Shakespeare Project

The Sonnets
by William Shakespeare

Venue: St Paul's Anglican Church
Dates: 13 & 14 February 2004

Reviewer: Jane Penistan



Directors Mackenzie Gray and Pamela Hyatt; Anthony F. Ingram and Sarah Rodgers




Shakespear's sonnetsMany single lines of Shakespeare's 154 Sonnets are familiar, but how familiar is the body of this most wonderful volume of love poems? Few of us can remember the next lines after well known quotes.   "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" or "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments", but what comes next? For two memorable evenings at St. Paul's Church,  Savage God regaled audiences with the 154 incomparable poems.

Sonnets I on Friday evening was directed by Mackenzie Gray and Pamela Hyatt.  The earlier verses, encouraging marriage, were dashed off and handed out to readers by a poet "in a fine frenzy" (Donald Adams).  As the mode of the sonnets, changed so the theme of each section of poems was posted by delightful commedia d'el arte characters (Ian Wallace and Sarah Douglas), a lover pursuing a coquettish nymph.  Some of the more romantic verse was accompanied by piano or recorder obbligato. The readings were all clearly and intelligently delivered, with humour, ruefulness, frustration, contemplation or adoration as the poem demanded, though some were more successfully delivered than others. Particularly outstanding were the well-tempered and beautifully modulated readings of Betty Phillips and Peter Howarth in the company of twenty-two actors. It was the beauty of the words and the enjoyment of the text by the performers which made the evening so enjoyable and memorable.

Sonnets II on Saturday night, was a very different entertainment. Determined to embrace all the arts the directors had a painter, Charisse Clarke, working on a sizable canvas in the chancel. By excellent timing this composition was completed with the final sonnet.


A quill-penned actor who spoke the first lines of sonnet 75 was joined by several others sharing the lines of some of the succeeding verses, mostly solo, but sometimes in chorus when the speech became muddled by voices not in unison.  In order to involve all the audience, some stanzas were read from different parts of the nave or by actors advancing up the central or side aisles.

In Elizabethan tradition there was plenty of music in the programme.  Settings were composed by Paul Moniz de Sa who also sang with other members of the cast of 32 performers and by Alessandro Juliani, who sang delightful duets with Meg Roe, to his guitar accompaniment.  Other musicians were Guy Fauchon (drummer) and Sean Bayntun (pianist), Varya Ruben, singer and music arranger, and Anthony F. Ingram on guitar.  There was one short dance by Caroline Fitzner.

This was an ambitious celebration of Shakespeare's love poems for today's audience.  It was unfortunate that some of the text was submerged by the movement of the cast or the accompanying music. Nothing could obscure the beauty of the short readings by Peter Howarth and Betty Phillips.

What a lovely way to celebrate Valentines Day.

Shakespear's sonnets

The fourteen remaining plays of The Shakespeare Project will be performed in Christ Church Cathedral during the summer of 2004. Dates, times and the names of guest directors will be announced when these are finalized.

2004, Jane Penistan