169 posts categorized "Shakespeare" Feed

Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

Continue reading "Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots" »


Review: Family-friendly theatre fun with Infinite Jest's A Midsummer Night's Dream, JW3

As a gentle and fun introduction to Shakespeare for kids it is excellent

A Midsummer Night's Dream web Infinite JestThere is nothing more infectious than a theatre full of kids giggling at the name 'Nick Bottom' and I'm sure Shakespeare would have approved.

Infinite Jest Theatre Company - which specialises in family-friendly Shakespeare - has condensed A Midsummer Night's Dream down to 60 fun-packed minutes.

Amusing modern references

To tell the tricksy, misaligned love story they mix puppetry and magic with the Bard's original text and some updated modern vernacular, throwing in amusing contemporary references along the way. 

The Cockney, Bob the Builder-style Nick Bottom (Rod Silvers) occasionally does a handy 'translation' of what is going on for younger members of the audience.

Continue reading "Review: Family-friendly theatre fun with Infinite Jest's A Midsummer Night's Dream, JW3" »


Church halls, tights and holding hands with actors, it's Macbeth, Factory Theatre-style

When an actor holds your hand or leads you into the performance space it is the encounter that is foremost in your mind and what is going on around you rather than the nuances of character, play and plot.

REVIEW: It's a cold, wet, Easter Friday and I'm in a church hall in Pimlico, sat in a circle on a plastic chair.

The strip lights are bright, the atmosphere friendly, the scouting posters on the walls betray the halls usual users - this isn't your standard theatre experience.

Factory Theatre macbeth signIt feels a little like a support group, a support group for theatre addicts - later an actor will stand next to me and hold my hand - but that's during the play, beforehand they mingle and chat. 

They aren't yet in character like at the Donmar's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui last year. Neither are they in costume.

I'm asked how I heard about the performance and whether I'd seen anything by Factory Theatre before - the company behind this production of Macbeth.

The atmosphere is relaxed, warm, full of expectation but with an underlying layer of nerves from the actors and perhaps the audience too - some are due to take part.

Audience participation is voluntary. Kind of. You can volunteer to 'play' a witch and are allocated a line or two together with the appropriate cue.

You can also join in with certain choruses of the witches. Or you can observe unless you find yourself being led gently by the hand to stand with the actors and other members of the audience during particular scenes.

But this is all to come. First us theatre addicts get an intro by our support group leader, RSC thesp and Factory artistic director Alex Hassell.

This, we are told, is the first performance of what will hopefully be an evolving production with the cast changing as often as the venues. Casting is colour, gender, age and disability blind.

The actors have a prompt, things might not go smoothly, we can pop out to the loo - the only real nod to convention is that phones should be switched off.

In a similar vein to recent productions where the lead actor is determined on the night (coin toss for Mary Stuart and burning matches for the RSC's Doctor Faustus) a game of rock, paper, scissors decides who will play Macbeth.

The two actors up for the part choose a member of the audience to play for them. We get a female Macbeth - what I was hoping for.

And then the play begins and we are in theatre-land with the actors wearing tights on their heads and silently moving around, shaping the performance space in the middle of the circle by either sitting, crouching, laying or standing.

Continue reading "Church halls, tights and holding hands with actors, it's Macbeth, Factory Theatre-style" »


Review: Brutal, cold, dystopian Macbeth, National Theatre and a Children of Men comparison

You don't walk away feeling any sense of tragedy merely that you've watched a bunch of unsavoury characters killing each other.

The first time we see Macbeth (Rory Kinnear) in Rufus Norris' production at the National Theatre, he is committing a brutal act of violence on an enemy. It sets the play down a path that doesn't necessarily lead to satisfactory conclusions.

Macbeth-mobileherospot_2160x2160-sfw-5The setting is some point in the future when society seems to have broken down.

It's a landscape of generators, machetes, chest armour held together with parcel tape and clothes and buildings patched-up using whatever is available - mainly polythene it seems.

Only King Duncan (Stephen Boxer) wears a smart, intact, red, tailored suit.

Stylistically it reminded me of parts of Alfonso Cuarón's film Children of Men (which I love), thematically there are similarities too.

The film is about an infertility crisis which leads to societal breakdown and of course Lady Macbeth (Anne-Marie Duff) and her husband are childless.

It could be argued that they seek out self-fulfilment in a desperate and increasingly brutal pursuit of power.

I liked the dark tone of the setting, even the Back to the Future, Doc Brown-esque porter played by Trevor Fox.

And I really liked the witches who were all different in their movements and energy levels and seem to haunt the dark corners of the stage. 

But the characters are nearly as unrelentingly cold and brutal as the landscape they live in and it is easy not to care.

There is no charisma to Rory Kinnear's Macbeth and how can you sympathise with a man - and the woman who spurs him on - who is capable of such horrific acts from the outset?

In this video interview, Rufus Norris describes them as in one sense 'Shakespeare's most happily married couple' but this is no love story or crime of passion.

Continue reading "Review: Brutal, cold, dystopian Macbeth, National Theatre and a Children of Men comparison" »


January theatre round up: Big (big) name castings, highs, lows and lots of actor spots.

The Inheritance Young Vic
Vanessa Redgrave joins the cast of The Inheritance, Young Vic

Theatre gets me through the dark days of January, here are my highlights from the new play and casting announcements, favourite things I saw (and the low moment).  And, thanks to the Julius Caesar press night, there was a bumper crop of actor, director and writer spots too...

* Forbes Mason, who will forever be known as the Lucifer in pants, thanks to Jamie Lloyd's Doctor Faustus, has been cast in the Almeida's Summer and Smoke which opens later this month. Did I mention how much I'm looking forward to seeing Patsy Ferran, who also stars, in that?

* Josie Rourke announced she is stepping down as artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse next year after eight years in the role. My highlights of her tenure, if you were to ask me for the first things that spring to mind, would be the Tom Hiddleston Coriolanus (incidentally my review of that is my most popular post and has been viewed nearly 15,000 times), the all women Shakespeare series and James Graham's Privacy. There are plenty of others but those are what stick most in my mind.

* Vanessa Redgrave (yes Vanessa Redgrave!) has been cast in The Inheritance at the Young Vic which opens next month. I could listen to her voice for hours. Also announced in the cast are Stan-fav's Kyle Soller, Michael Marcus and Luke Thallon plus a whole bunch of new names I’m looking forward to getting to know over a double play day.

Continue reading "January theatre round up: Big (big) name castings, highs, lows and lots of actor spots." »


Attracting next generation of theatre-goers doesn't necessarily alienate older audiences

This headline for a Daily Express review of the Bridge Theatre's immersive Julius Caesar production implies that it is for young people, not people like me who are old enough to be a young persons parent.

Julius Caesar daily express headlineI have absolutely nothing against encouraging younger audiences. In fact, I much prefer to sit in a diverse group whether it is age, gender and ethnicity - the reaction and response is inevitably going to be more varied and more interesting as a result.

OK so perhaps it's nice to go to Hampstead occasionally and sit in the audience feeling young.

julius caesar bridge theatre ticketBut compartmentalising the generations is like saying that once you get to a certain again you only like Oscar Wilde revivals, productions of Shakespeare performed in ruffs and pantaloons and perhaps some Pinter if you are feeling daring.

I like all sorts of theatre; I love fresh interpretations, new writing, contemporary stories, twists on classics and innovative productions. I'm certainly not a purist or a traditionalist.

Being part of the crowd, standing for Julius Caesar was great fun. I wasn't the only 'older' person, we were a mixed group and that made it better - more representative.

However, if this production is trying to attract a younger audience and I believe it is, then it's somewhat ironic that the standing tickets are referred to as 'promenading'.

I mean this isn't the Victorian age and given that you can be just a few feet away from a murder and end up in the middle of a civil war, it's slightly misleading.

 

 


Review: It's rock and roll and riot with Ben Whishaw, David Morrissey and Michelle Fairley in Julius Caesar

I'm in a crowd watching a band play rock tunes, it's getting lively and animated.

Merchandise and refreshment sellers weave their way through the rhythmically nodding heads and shuffling feet.  Hands have started clapping along to the music and flags are being waved.

Centre Abraham Popoola - Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre - Photo credit Manuel Harlan
Centre Abraham Popoola - Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre - Photo: Manuel Harlan

It's like a gig except it isn't a band name emblazoned on the banners, T-Shirts and posters, it is the face of Julius Caesar (David Calder). This is a political rally and it feels celebratory.

Given the mix of edgier and popular tracks on the band's play list, Julius Caesar is a lot more popular in music circles than President Trump, with whom we are obviously supposed to draw parallels.

When the man himself appears, we are quickly herded to one side with shouts of 'Get out of the way!' by serious-looking, ear-piece wearing security.

This is to become a common occurrence throughout the play - the tone of the herding reflective of whether it is part of the action or to make way for parts of stage rising up out of the floor we are standing on. But more on that later.

Ben Whishaw (Brutus) - Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre - Photo credit Manuel Harlan
Ben Whishaw (Brutus) - Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre - Photo: Manuel Harlan

Calder's Julius Caesar is a commanding presence or perhaps the circus around him makes him so.

Ben Whishaw's Brutus is a politely muted form on the periphery of the hullabaloo; afterwards he sits at a café table, drinking red wine and deep in a book which he has to wear glasses to read. This is obviously more his comfort zone.

In fact he is often seen with a book, playing with the glasses in his hand when he has to leave off reading.

He is incongruous to his name: he thinks, he considers, he lacks the brutality of mind and personality that perhaps would mean a different fate.

When he does get angry - the verbal fight between him and Cassius (Michelle Fairley) crackles with tension and there is some superb angry eating by Ben - it is out of frustration that his carefully thought through plans are not quite the success he envisioned.

Mark Antony (David Morrissey), by comparison, is a far more brutish - dangerous - character in many ways. Turning from Caesar's supportive 'yes' man into a Venus fly trap.

Ironically, he uses words far better than the bookish Brutus and crucially he seems to understand the crowd better - another fatal flaw in Brutus and his co-conspirators well-meaning plan.

I've seen the 'Friends, Romans, countrymen...' speech delivered with obvious irony even borderline sarcasm. Morrissey's delivery is the perfect blend of grief, passion and reason - you don't realise cleverness of it until after the crowd has dispersed. From there he is merciless compare to Brutus' mercy. 

Continue reading "Review: It's rock and roll and riot with Ben Whishaw, David Morrissey and Michelle Fairley in Julius Caesar" »


Review: Blood and audience gasps in Julius Caesar, Barbican Theatre

Julius Caesar_ 2017_ the conspirators kill Caesar_2017_Photo by Helen Maybanks _c_ RSC_214266
RSC's Julius Caesar 2017: Photo by Helen Maybanks (c) RSC

Bloody Julius Caesar. Not only does he gets ideas above his station and meet with a messy end but his murderers decide to wear his blood like a face mask, as if they weren't smeared and splattered enough. 

However, it wasn't the sight of the red stuff in this RSC production that earned a collective gasp from the audience it was another death, bloodless but with a realistic snapping sound effect that had more than a few hands over mouths.

Who met with this end? Well that was, I suspect, a big contributing factor in the response but I won't spoil it.

Julius Caesar is a brutal play not just in the violence but in the questions of loyalty and justice.

The writing is on the wall in the opening scene where a celebratory mob are criticised for their fickleness having changed allegiance to Julius Caesar when he is victorious.

Brutus (Alex Waldmann) has the people behind him after his rational speech explaining the reasons for the murder but it is Mark Antony (James Corrigan) who really knows how to work the crowd.

Continue reading "Review: Blood and audience gasps in Julius Caesar, Barbican Theatre" »


My best of theatre list for 2017 - with some rom-com, Chekhov and Christmas surprises

If you'd told me at the start of the year that there would be a rom-com, a Chekhov and a Christmas play on my best of list, I'd have laughed in your face. Just goes to show you should always expect the unexpected...here are my favourite plays of 2017, in no particular order and links are to my reviews.

An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard
An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Let's face it most rom-coms are a bit rubbish - they generally aren't that funny - but this tale of modern romance had me guffawing with laughter and I wasn't on my own.

An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre

This is a play that reminded me why I love going to the theatre and I could write pages on it. Thought-provoking, sometime uncomfortable to watch and yet it was still entertaining. It's transferring to the National Theatre in June and I'll definitely be getting a ticket.

Apologia, Trafalgar Studios

In my review I said: "Apologia is a play of sharp humour and depth that slowly breaks down the defences to reveal something raw and emotional. You will laugh and you will have a lump in your throat." It was also a great play for female characters.

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre and Trafalgar Studios 2

This odd-ball, misfit comedy was a breath of fresh air and it got a much deserved transfer so I got to enjoy it a second time.

Hamlet, Almeida

Up there as one of the best Hamlet productions I've seen, it made me see the play anew.

BU21, Trafalgar Studios 2

Writer Stuart Slade took real testimonies from terrorist attacks around the world and used them to create a story around a fictional attack in London. The result was an honest, awkward and funny piece that was also really clever.

Continue reading "My best of theatre list for 2017 - with some rom-com, Chekhov and Christmas surprises" »