175 posts categorized "Shakespeare" Feed

Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bridge Theatre - bed hopping and role-swapping

It is a production that ends with an immersive dance and leaves the audience in a party mood but what I liked most was how it steered the narrative away from male dominance.

Midsummer Night's Dream Bridge Theatre poster
Don't leave it to the last minute to get into the auditorium for the Bridge Theatre immersive, promenade production of A Midsummer Night's Dream because there is stuff going on before the play officially starts.

Gwendoline Christie, a statuesque Amazon Queen, is encased in a glass box in a riff on the idea of a golden cage. She is dressed in a nun-like habit while a choir, similarly attired, sing to her.

When the opening 'marriage or death' scene plays out, it is austere with the cold and unfeeling Theseus (Oliver Chris) and Egeus (Kevin McMonagle) appearing all the more domineering towards the petite, girlish Hermia (Isis Hainsworth). 

Hippolyta places her hand on the glass in a gesture of support towards Hermia.

Hint of a twist

It hints at a twist that is to come, one that sees director Nicholas Hytner not merely gender swapping to redress the balance but swapping a whole storyline. But I'll come onto that.

Continue reading "Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bridge Theatre - bed hopping and role-swapping" »


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" »


2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)

So I've published my favourite fringe plays list and my least favourite plays list, time now for my best plays of 2018 overall, gleaned from everything I've seen - large productions and small, commercial theatres, subsidised and fringe:

via GIPHY

Misty, Trafalgar Studios

A play which put the pulse back into the West End and as a result was a breath of fresh air.

A Monster Calls, Old Vic

I was nervous about seeing a stage adaptation of a much-loved book but the creativity with which it was staged combined with the performances meant I was an emotional wreck by the end. So much of an emotional wreck, I had to walk around for a bit afterwards to compose myself.

Queens of Sheba, Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe

A play about the dual prejudice of sexism and racism encountered by black women that succeeded in being both angry, uplifting and empowering.

It left me feeling teary in a happy/sad/exhilarated way and ready to march if the call came.

There is another chance to see it at the New Diorama Theatre, Jan 30-Feb 3 as part of the Vault Festival.

Notes from the Field, Royal Court

It was an uncomfortable, seat-squirming, horrifying joy to sit and experience and I gave it an unprecedented six stars. Yes, six stars.

Continue reading "2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)" »


From the archives: A Ben Whishaw Hamlet interview

Don't ask me why I was googling Ben Whishaw and Hamlet but I came across this interview which I don't think I've seen before and it struck me because it's probably the most candid he's been about playing the part - and the audition process. 

Asked how he sees his own Hamlet, Whishaw describes him as "still a boy, hypersensitive and hyperactive. His relationships with his mother and his girlfriend are perhaps more fraught than a 35-year-old might suggest on stage, because we make strides to remind everyone he's only 19."

You can read the full interview with Ben Whishaw on the Evening Standard website. 

And my Hamlet review, which I described as my 'Hallelujah moment', written after watching it at the V&A archive.

 


Best (and worst) of London theatre for 2018...so far...and the actress in two plays on the list

As the halfway mark of 2018 rushes past, it's time to reflect on the highlights and low lights of London's theatre productions so far (edit: scroll to the bottom for the most read posts).

julius caesar bridge theatre Rev stan
Julius Caesar warm-up gig, Bridge Theatre. Photo: Rev Stan

I'm not sure whether it's a reflection of more varied programming generally or just where my interests predominantly lie these days but it's a list dominated by women protagonists and BAME stories.

Best of the big stuff (West End and off West End)

Girls and Boys, Royal Court

Carey Mulligan's performance is a tour de force, precise, subtle and complex. It is a devastating and brilliant piece of theatre and it's transferred to the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York Theatre where it runs until July 22.

The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse

Like My Night With Reg crossed with God's Own Country and the steamiest flirtation on stage for a long while.

Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre

Stuff with Ben Whishaw in it doesn't always make it into my best of lists but being part of the mob was at times like being at a rock concert, a rally and in the middle of a war - never thought I'd enjoy standing at the theatre.

The Great Wave, National Theatre

Had no prior knowledge about the true events this play is based on but it proved the adage that the truth really can be stranger than fiction.

Summer and Smoke, Almeida

The first of two appearances on this list for Patsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke was a delicate, yet tense and heartbreaking play and I'm so glad it's got a transfer to the West End. See ATG's official website for details.

Continue reading "Best (and worst) of London theatre for 2018...so far...and the actress in two plays on the list" »


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" »