17 posts categorized "Barbican" Feed

Review: David Tennant is back as Richard II, Barbican Theatre

Photo from 2013 production by Kwame Lestrade (c) RSC

When David Tennant’s King Richard swept onto the Barbican stage last night head held with haughty entitlement I couldn't help but grin. He’s back. And I confess I didn’t think the RSC could do this production any better but they did, somehow.

Richard II has been revived, albeit with some new cast members to replace those unavailable three years on from the original Stratford and London production, as part of a series of Shakespeare's history plays to celebrate the bards 400th anniversary.  The other plays in the series are a revival of the RSC's 2014 Henry IV parts one and two and 2015’s Henry V which sees Alex Hassell completing the journey from Prince Hal to victorious King. If you have the stamina, and I’m hoping I do, you can see all four plays over three days - Henry IV part one is tonight part two tomorrow afternoon and finishing with Henry V in the evening*.

Seeing them in succession has its own thrill with continuity of cast and plot as well as the opportunity of seeing RII and the two Henry IV’s again - Henry V will be first time viewing.

But last night the bar was set high. There was an energy I don’t remember first time around which heightened emotions to a new level. Tennant was on fighting form eliciting a yelp when he lashed out at one unfortunate character and when he kissed Aumerle (Sam Marks) it was long and lingering and spoke a thousand words.

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Second thoughts: Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet, Barbican Theatre

Definitely warmed to Benedict Cumberbatch's Prince Hamlet on second viewing. First time around he felt a little out of joint with the rest of the cast but with a few more performances completed (and those pesky video incidents in the past) the company and production is starting to gel nicely.

The biggest change to be made since the early previews is moving 'To be or not to be.." from the opening speech to the middle of his feigned madness episode. I liked it at the beginning but it does work really well in its new slot giving Hamlet a moment of brooding introspection amid his rather eccentric behaviour - more madcap that mad I would say.

Now the play starts with Hamlet's exercise of quiet reflection interrupted by the return of Horatio (Leo Bill). It immediately establishes him as a person who has friends, someone who is liked. When the scene then moves to his mother's wedding reception he shares a moment with Ophelia adding another to the list of his fans.

BC's Hamlet feels slightly volatile but self aware and trying to keep it in check. He is definitely a Hamlet with flaws: his ego surfaces occasionally, he can be petulant and contemptuous - he's very human in that respect. He isn't wholly likeable but he carried my emotion more readily this time partly because his inner struggles were more visible. It makes the question of his madness more ambiguous. Is he genuinely losing his marbles but having moments of lucidness? There is a moment when he seems to see his own death and becomes resigned to it.

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First thoughts on Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet, Barbican Theatre

First visit to see Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet this week and these are very much first thoughts on a big production that will no doubt evolve and gel over the coming weeks.

It is certainly a memorable production in many ways but I do have a few reservations. *spoilers follow*

Director Lyndsey Turner has done some interesting things with the text, moving some of the speeches and switching some of the dialogue. This is most notable in the opening scene. Normally you have the ghost appearing to the watch, instead we see Hamlet alone, listening to Nat King Cole on an old record player (great use of Nature Boy).

He's sorting through crates of belongings. There's an old toy boat and clothes. He takes a jacket and smells it in that way you do when you are nostalgically drinking in the memory sparked by an aroma. It reminds him of someone - his father presumably from the style of the jacket. And when he speaks it is 'To Be or Not To Be."

Now @polyg didn't like this, felt it took the speech out of context with no opportunity to warm up to it. I disagree. It was an impassioned, tear-filled eyes, rendering that set up Cumberbatch's Hamlet as very much the thinker, an over thinker, a melancholic who is lost in grief and isolation in his own home.

Nature Boy, the boat and later when he plays at toy soldiers in his 'antic disposition' all seem to suggest a yearning for his childhood, a time presumably when he was happy.

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Review: Robert Sean Leonard is Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, @BarbicanCentre

Milo Panni (Dill), Rosie Boore (Scout), Billy Price (Jem). Photo Christopher Akrill

Harper Lee's classic novel was one of a small handful of books read during my formative years that has left an indelible mark so I was mixture of excitement and nerves going to see this stage version.

This production of Christopher Sergel's adaptation, directed by  Timothy Sheader, originated at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2013, where it sold out two runs before touring and this residence at the Barbican - so the signs were good. It also stars Robert Sean Leonard of House and Dead Poets Society fame.

Leonard plays Atticus the lawyer chosen to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman in 1930's small town Alabama.

The story in the book is told the through the eyes of his young daughter Scout (Rosie Boore*) who, together with her older brother Jem (Billy Price) and friend Dill (Milo Panni) obsess about the reclusive Boo Radley who lives next door and plot to try and get him to come out.

It is so with the stage production but Scout's voice doesn't come just from Boore but also the ensemble who each carry a copy of the novel from which they take turns to read passages. The result is an intoxicating mixture of story time and acting,  blending seamlessly the enduring charm of reading the novel with the thrill of watching live theatre.

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Review: Hugo Weaving is Waiting For Godot, Barbican Theatre

Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh in Waiting for Godot

I've been waiting for Godot (sorry) to return to London for six years. Samuel Beckett's surreal, existential tragicomedy is a Marmite play, I know, but I think it's a great piece. It is a play that tests both actors and audience and one which always gives up something new.

This is a Sydney Theatre Production which is in residence at the Barbican for just over a week and sees Hugo Weaving take on Vladimir and Richard Roxburgh Estragon with Philip Quast as Pozzo and Luke Mullins as Lucky.

Their back drop are the walls of a what looks likes a former industrial building and yet there is proscenium arch of sorts which also looks likes a dressing room mirror frame with most of the bulbs around its perimeter either missing or broken. And of course there is the tree, just a long trunk disappearing off into the flies and one branch.

It is evocative of economic decay, the passing of good times and a reflection of ourselves and the human condition. The latter is an irony that is really brought to the fore in this production. It feels like the play is often poking fun at the audience; as Vladimir and Estragon entertain themselves to pass the time so we are similarly entertained. There is a bleakness and tragedy in everything but equally there is something very warm and comforting. This is a production with no half measures.

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Review: Cheek By Jowl's Russian invasion at the Barbican with Measure for Measure

Alexander Arsentyev, Anna Khalilulina. Photographer - Johan Persson
Alexander Arsentyev, Anna Khalilulina in Measure for Measure. Photographer - Johan Persson

Cheek By Jowl have done it again. This time they've brought a Russian flavour to Shakespeare's Measure For Measure. It's a Russian cast, performed in Russian* and it's rather taken me prisoner.

The run time is trimmed down to around two hours 10 straight through -  longer than one hour 45 minutes it says on the website - and opens with the Duke (Alexander Arsentyev) leaving Angelo (Andrei Kuzichev) in charge.

All the cast are on stage and move as one like a swarm of insects with the Duke gradually becoming separated. No words are spoken but this feels like part rejection, part ejection and part choice.

And so the scene is set for his disguised return and his journey back to the path of leadership. It is a journey of revelations and lessons through the injustice, immorality and corruption that he witnesses.

Angelo in deciding to follow the law to the letter has had Claudio (Peter Rykov) imprisoned and sentenced to death for getting a woman pregnant outside marriage.

Claudio's sister Isabella (Anna Khalilulina), who is about to take Holy Orders, is persuaded to try and intervene and get the sentence overturned. It pits compassion, leniency and purity against lust and corruption. Angelo holds the power of justice but uses it to try and satisfy his own desire.

I've not seen Measure For Measure before but director Declan Donellan has created a world that is dark, grubby and dictatorial but all the more dangerous for being conducted under the banner of justice.

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Review: Juliette Binoche is a considered Antigone in a subtle production


Juliette Binoche as Antigone. Photograph: Jan Versweyveld

Ivo van Hove who brought us the emotionally charged A View From The Bridge at the Young Vic last year (and now transferred to the West End) has taken quite a different tack with Greek tragedy Antigone.

The stage is slightly more dressed but this is play that despite being cut to an hour and 40 minutes straight through feels considered and unrushed. The actors take their time so that you become just as absorbed in what they are doing - where a hand falls, a posture or gesture - as you are in what they are saying.

When Antigone (Binoche) appears, walking slowly in a wind which ruffles her lose clothing and sends rubbish shuffling across the stage, it is emblematic of the quiet battle to come with Creon over the burial of her traitorous brother.

Once she sets in motion events by telling her sister she will bury Polynices, against Creon's wishes, a huge sun like disc appears, marking a slow time to her tragic demise and Creon's downfall. Images are projected against the back drop, ordinary scenes of people from different parts of the world, a reminder of life going on that is cemented in the final scene when we get a snippet of Lou Reed's Heroin.

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