82 posts categorized "RSC" Feed

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?

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


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:

Patsy-ferran-in-my-mumand39s-a-twt-121702
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.

Continue reading "2018 theatre review: Favourite moments from the surreal to the emotional and some awards" »


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.

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


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

Imperium-II_-Dictator-production-photos_-2017_2017_Photo-by-Ikin-Yum-_c_-RSC_235448
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

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


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." »


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" »


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

Coriolanus production photos_ 2017_2017_Photo by Helen Maybanks _c_ RSC_231764
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. 

Continue reading "Review: RSC's gender swap Salome, Swan Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon" »


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.

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


Review: Taking the use of technology on stage to the next level in the RSC's The Tempest, Barbican Theatre

The Tempest production photos_ 2017_ Barbican Theatre_2017_Photo by Topher McGrillis _c_ RSC_222722
The Tempest, Barbican Theatre. Photo by Topher McGrillis (c) RSC


The opening storm in the RSC's The Tempest at the Barbican is probably the most spectacular I've seen. The stage is set like the inside carcass of a ship, there is lightning and thunder effects as you'd expect but there are also projections which make the hull look like it is rolling with the waves.

You can't actually hear what any of the actors are saying above the din, which is problematic (if you know the play, then less so) and it sums up neatly this production: high on spectacle and effects but not everything quite works.

Of course it is the motion capture performance of Ariel (Mark Quartley) which is making headlines. On paper having a CGI of a character which is a spirit, that can take on different forms and float is a superb idea. It is a device that is used for particularly scenes, the rest of the time Mark Quartley performs more traditionally, his costume discreetly hiding the gizmos required for the motion capture.

It is quite spectacular to see the CGI Ariel hovering above the stage and encased in a tree when his history is recalled by Prospero (Simon Russell Beale) but the technology isn't quite up to speed and there is a slight delay between the actors movements and what the CGI character does which was a bit distracting and I found myself watching Mark Quartley more than the image. The problem is most acute when Ariel takes on the form of a harpy, he wears a special headset which is supposed to capture the movement of his face as he speaks but the delay is such that it just looks oddly out of sink like a DVD where the movement and sound don't quite match up.

Continue reading "Review: Taking the use of technology on stage to the next level in the RSC's The Tempest, Barbican Theatre" »