83 posts categorized "RSC" Feed

10 plays from the past 10 years that stand out - for a variety of reasons (not necessarily overly worthy ones)

Here is a snapshot of my favourite theatre from the past 10 years. I say 'favourite', I've tried not to overthink it, these are simply the plays that stand out most in my memory, the ones I talk about if people ask.

Theatre tickets
Stan's growing pile of theatre tickets


The list is not about plays that broke new ground or changed the theatre landscape - there are plenty of those lists around already - rather these plays just had something in them that I remember fondly.

To say that it has been tough narrowing it down to 10 is an understatement but I get another go next year because my blog is 10 in April. (There, I spoilt the surprise.)

In no particular order (the links are through to my reviews):

1. After the Dance, National Theatre

This is a play that gets talked about in 'theatre circles' a lot. It had a uniformly standout cast and I can still remember Nancy Carroll's snot crying.

But it has a particularly special place in my memory for being the play which turned Benedict Cumberbatch into 'one to watch' for me.

I'd seen him plenty on TV but this catapulted him from jobbing actor to leading man potential in my eyes.

This was before Sherlock hit the screens and as a result, means I can smugly say 'well I've been a fan since before he played Holmes'.

2. Hamlet, Stratford and Hackney Empire

I've seen a lot of Hamlets, more than one a year, and while technically I did see Ben Whishaw's Hamlet for the first time in 2010, it was a recording rather than the live performance so it doesn't count.

Paapa Essiedu's Hamlet for the RSC was the first, since Whishaw's, where I really felt he was a student and acting his age, he was also the most likeable which made the play all the more tragic.

Setting the play in an African country and having Rosencrantz & Guildenstern as 2 of only 3 white characters was also genius because it put them out of their depth in so many more interesting ways.

When I saw it for the second time, in Hackney, a group of teenagers were so swept up in it they leapt up to dance at the end. I don't think there is higher praise than that really.

3. The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios

It's the play in which director Jamie Lloyd had James McAvoy unicycling around the stage wearing just his pants. Have no idea why that sticks out in my mind. Ahem.

The play was brilliantly bonkers too. Wish I could see it again.

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First review of 2019: RSC's Merry Wives of Windsor, Barbican - is the year off to a good start?

[Fiona] Laird brilliantly brings to life the Elizabethan bawdy humour, mixed with 70's 'ooh er missus'  and a good sprinkling of contemporary references for good measure.

The Merry Wives of Windsor production photos_ 2018_2018_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_258251
© RSC's Merry Wives of Windsor: David Troughton and Beth Cordingly. Photo Manuel Harlan


Being my first time seeing Merry Wives of Windsor, I did a tiny bit of research which seemed to suggest a play of less literary merit compared to Shakespeare's other works and a plot, when written down, that just baffled.

So I wasn't sure what to expect as I settled into my seat, would my first play of the year be a damp squib?

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2018 theatre review: Favourite moments from the surreal to the emotional and some awards

110+ plays and my first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe (15 plays in 6 days), 2018 was quite a year...

Magic and memorable moments:

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Patsy Ferran in My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court. Photo: Helen Murray.

Feeling part of the set:  Sitting on a bean bag on the carpet in Patsy Ferran's 'bedroom' for My Mum's a Twat at the Royal Court (and she said hello to me).

Audience reaction #1: The audience gasping at the 'snap' during a scene in the RSC's Julius Caesar where a little boy's neck 'was broken’. Obviously, no child was harmed etc.

Audience reaction #2: Finding myself stood up singing Amazing Grace with the entire audience at the Royal Court during 'Notes From The Field'.

Actor interaction: Kia Charles winking at me and grinning during Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre (benefits of on-stage seating).

Surreal moment #1: Alex Hassell introducing himself to me and Poly was a bit surreal (stopped myself from blurting out 'I know, I saw you play Prince Hal/Henry V etc.)

But what made it more surreal is that we were in a church hall in Pimlico and after the meet and greet we sat in a circle to watch and sometimes be part of a production of Macbeth.

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Review: RSC's Don Quixote, Garrick Theatre - fun and poignancy but differing opinions on the 'musical' elements

Their adventures are vividly and cleverly brought to life utilising a variety of media including puppetry, acrobatics and wire work but it is the small, often background detail which richly elevates this production.

Rufus-Hound-and-David-Threlfall-in-the-Royal-Shakespeare-Companys-Don-Quixote.-London-2018.-Photography-by-Manuel-Harlan
Rufus Hound and David Threlfall in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Don Quixote London 2018. Photography by Manuel Harlan.

It's taken two years for the RSC's hit Don Quixote to make it to the West End with David Threlfall and Rufus Hound reprising their roles as the hapless knight errant and his squire.

Adapted by James Fenton it not only notches up the famous scenes from Miguel de Cervantes novel but the production design and direction find new niches of humour and fun.

It tells the story of Don Quixote (Threlfall) who, having read too many romantic novels, decides he is a knight errant and sets upon a mission to restore chivalry.

He takes with him illiterate farmer Sancho (Hound) to act as his squire and in the first half, we see them embroiled in a series of absurd scrapes brought about by Don Quixote's delusions and fantastical notions.

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Production photos: RSC's historical thriller Imperium officially opens next week at Gielgud Theatre

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RSC's Imperium: Dictator. Photo by Ikin Yum

Following a sold-out run in Stratford Upon Avon, the RSC's historical two-part thriller Imperium has its official opening at the Gielgud next week and guess who will be there?

Adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton (Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies) from Robert Harris’ internationally best-selling Cicero trilogy the story is presented at six one-act plays. 

Told through the watchful eyes of Cicero’s loyal secretary IMPERIUM I: Conspirator chronicles how the great orator’s early success unwittingly paves the way for a brutal and bloody end to the Republic. 


With Rome in chaos at the beginning of IMPERIUM II: Dictator, Cicero must use all his brilliance to restore the power of the Senate from the civic mob and their would-be Emperor: one Julius Caesar. 

RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, directs a cast led by Olivier and Tony Award-winner Richard McCabe (The Audience, BBC’s Collateral) as Cicero and Joseph Kloska (The Crown) as Tiro.

Currently open for previews, each part can be seen on its own or together as one epic story. There are over 10,000 tickets for £10 or under and you will find details on the RSC's Imperium West End website.

Imperium-I_-Conspirator-production-photos_-2017_2017_Photo-by-Ikin-Yum-_c_-RSC_234853
RSC's Imperium: Conspirator. Photo by Ikin Yum

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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.

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

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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.

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Quick review: RSC's muscular and angry Coriolanus, Barbican Theatre

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RSC's Coriolanus 2017. Photo by Helen Maybanks (c) RSC

Two military leaders clash on stage. There is nothing delicate or seemingly choreographed, rather sparks fly from the machete-style swords as they make contact with flinch-inducing force. It is powerful, ferocious fight with a genuine sense of danger - certainly from the front row anyway.

This is Coriolanus (Sope Dirisu) and Aufidius (James Corrigan) in pivotal battle that will shape much of what follows. It isn’t a battle merely of physical might and swordsmanship, it's a fight for respect and honour.

Sope Dirisu's, Coriolanus is a formidable presence - you certainly don’t doubt his exploits and achievements in battle even without appearing smeared in the blood of those he’s reportedly slain. There is also no doubting his stubborn pride which leads to his downfall - that and his equally formidable mother Volumnia's (Haydn Gwynne) ambitions for him. So stubborn is he that it is only when you see him struggle with his emotions when his family visit him to plea for Rome that you know he has a chink in his armour, that it is an armour moulded over many years.

When his death comes, the method of his demise is ignoble for the warrior that he is but in that there is an element of tragedy.

This is a muscular, angry production and I'm not going to lie and say I got all the nuances of the plot but it certainly held my attention. I'm giving it four stars. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the RSC's Rome season over the next couple of months

 

 


Review: RSC's gender swap Salome, Swan Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon

Salome-production-photos_-June-2017_2017_Photo-by-Isaac-James-_c_-RSC_220811-e1497002267411This is my first Salome and my first Salome had a man - Matthew Tennyson - playing the titular character. The decision does raise the question of why give over lead female part to a man - it's not like there are a plethora of meaty lead roles for woman. Having not seen a woman play Salome I can't judge what the decision adds or detracts, other than the fact that it immediately pushes the play towards being about a broader spectrum of gender.

It is a sexually charged production that feels like the characters have just stepped away from a Bacchanalian orgy, the residual revelry and lust hanging in the air, the stage lit like an after hours club. A male singer stalks in leather hot pants and bondage-like straps. The male dominated court of King Herod (Matthew Pidgeon) is suited but with ties long discarded and top buttons undone. The soldiers wear white vests showing off their muscular arms even the prophet Iokanaan (Gavin Fowler), when he escapes from his cell beneath the stage, wears nothing but tight underwear.

Matthew Tennyson's Salome, dressed in a body skimming satin slip and high heels is at times feminine and masculine, chaste and flirtatious, victim and vengeful. There is no mistaking the impact s/he has on her step father Herod, there is carnal desire written all over his face when he looks at him/her. It is alarming to watch. Even at his/her most masculine there is a delicacy to Matthew Tennyson's Salome that makes his/her situation feel dangerous. 

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Review: Friendship, politics and power in the RSC's Queen Anne, Theatre Royal Haymarket #RSCQueenAnne

Queen Anne marketing image_ Theatre Royal Haymarket 2017_2017_211146The RSC's production of new play Queen Anne opens with a satirical song about the monarch's many pregnancies, the joke being that her latest was just trapped wind. It is a humorous song with barbs, Anne is portrayed by a man with fake fat belly and voluminous breasts - her reign was said to have seen the birth of political satire, if not an heir to the throne. 

It is one of a handful of satirical songs that pepper the play, reflecting political opinions and gossip, and a growing tool for those trying to manipulate or discredit the monarch, her politicians and advisers. These songs are like the equivalent of an 18th century Spitting Image sketch. There is a disquieting irony to the fact that the same day I was watching the play, our 21st century Parliament was discussing abuse and intimidation in the run up to the last election.

The song feels both cruel and understandable when we meet the Queen (Emma Cunniffe) for the first time. She appears sickly, weak - physically and mentally - evasive on important issues and prone to changing her mind and yet there is something tragic, pitiable and occasionally admirable about her too.

Her personality means she is putty in the hands of her supposed friend Sarah Churchill (Romola Garai) who has wit, intelligence and confidence in abundance. Sarah and her husband John (Chu Omambala) are also skilled at negotiation and manipulation, using the Queen for their own advantage and that of their political allies.

However, Sarah doesn't so much overestimate how much power and influence she has over her friend but just how far she can be pushed. While the Queen is to a large extent a pawn among political factions, in her naivete she is perhaps wiser than the Churchill's give her credit but there is no mistaking the killer blow she ultimately delivers.

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