185 posts categorized "Shakespeare" Feed

Lockdown London theatre walks: Bridge Theatre and a conversion to the groundling experience

One of the newest theatres in London, the Bridge Theatre has already made an impression, not least for making the groundling experience enjoyable.

Bridge Theatre Feb 2021
Bridge Theatre lockdown Feb 2021

Yes, yes, I know there are plenty of groundling fans out there, but whenever I've tried it at the Globe, I've ended up frustrated with the view, tired and cold.

But the groundling experience at the Bridge was completely different. It was indoors for a start. More importantly, there was no fixed stage for the audience to queue up early for so you could get a spot at the front and see properly.

Crowds are always problematic for me as I'm short, so I end up trying to peer over peoples shoulders to see.

I get ahead of myself; I haven't even mentioned the play. Actually, it was two different Shakespeare productions: Julius Caesar and then A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Attracted by the starry cast

And I have to confess if Julius Caesar hadn't starred Ben Whishaw - and Michelle Fairley and David Morrissey - I may not have bothered. And I certainly wouldn't have opted for the groundling experience. (I booked a seat for later in the run, just in case.)

Because the Bridge is a new theatre, the auditorium has been designed to be flexible with a wide variety of staging options. For Julius Caesar (and then MSND), this meant bits of stage rising from the floor so that the location of the performance changed frequently.

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Lockdown London theatre walks: Barbican Theatre - the stage for epic Shakespeare and event theatre

There were few people outside my theatre friends who could understand my excitement at having spent 6 hours watching Shakespeare performed in Dutch. But it was brilliant, and it was at the Barbican theatre. 

Barbican Theatre entrance March 2021
Barbican Theatre lockdown March 2021

The Barbican is one of only a few big theatres in London I actually like. The auditorium is not only spacious - no cramped seating and having to stand up every time someone wants to get to their seat - but it also has great sightlines.

Its size means it can have big productions, epic in fact hence the 6 hours of Shakespeare.

That was Ivo Van Hove's Roman Tragedies where he cut and shut Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, so you got to see how all those stories interrelate.

It was the follow up to Kings of War which had been a mere 4.5 hours and took a similar approach to Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III (with a smidge of Henry IV part 2 at the very beginning). In hindsight, Kings of War was just a warm-up act - but a bloody good one.

These productions could legitimately be called 'event' theatre. They were more than long plays, they were a new play watching experience. 

Ivo Van Hove broke the taboos of theatre. You were allowed to Tweet and take photos during the performance (except during particular scenes). The audience was invited up onto the stage at certain points to sit among the actors and see the drama unfolding close up.

He used cameras - handheld in some instances to get close to the actors and take the audience into otherwise hidden corners of the set and stage.

And alongside that, you get Van Hove's naturalist directing style and contemporary setting which brings a new dimension to Shakespeare.

In fact, when I rummage through my archive, the Barbican has become the stage for epic Shakespeare.

It's become the London home for the RSC, and it was where I got the opportunity to watch the King and Country Cycle: Four plays in two days - Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and part 2 and Henry V.

Seeing them like that, you got to appreciate the little treatments that carried through all the plays and the 'full story' of Henry V from the landscape he was born into to his most famous victory.

Another epic production, but more so because of its star lead, was Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet. Memorable for the ticket scramble and (smugly) managing to get tickets to see it more than once.

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Sunday theatre questions: Which play have you seen the most?

Theatre-land is a mixture of new plays and revivals, but there are certain classics which regularly get staged - which have you seen the most? Is there a particular reason why you've seen one play more than any others?

Which play have you seen the most

The hands-down winner for me is Hamlet. I think I've seen 17 or more different productions, but I confess it was less than literary reasons that got me hooked initially.

Yes, Hamlet was one of the set texts in my final year at Uni but that year also saw the release of a film version of Hamlet starring Mel Gibson.

He was one of my teen crushes so; naturally, I ran to the cinema to see it and then went back to see it again... and again.

I have no idea if it was well done - I wasn't really watching it for the play - but it helped me get really familiar with the key speeches. Handy when exam time came around.

The very first production

The first stage production of Hamlet I saw was on a student trip to Theatr Clwyd. It was memorable for several reasons no least because one of the actor's costumes caught fire  - it was all fine, quickly stamped out by another actor without even a pause in their speech.

But it wasn't until I saw it again years later - in 2008 - with David Tennant as Hamlet that it really sparked my interest/obsession. The speeches were still familiar, and the production just opened up the play in different ways.

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Sunday theatre question: Which stage role would you choose for your favourite actor?

This Sunday's theatre question is inspired by a comment Ben Whishaw made in an interview about needing to do more Shakespeare. Watch the video to hear more about the question and my choice.

Would love to hear what your choice would be, let me know in the comments. Some suggestions already made over on my Instagram channel include David Dawson in a Simon Stephens play and David Tennant as Richard III. 

I'm going to make more of an effort to add my Sunday Theatre questions here every week as posting has got a bit sporadic but in the meantime, if you want to delve into the archive they on my social media channels:

YouTube channel Facebook page or Instagram.

And in keeping with the Ben Whishaw theme, you can find my edited highlights of a Q&A he did with director Katie Mitchell here.


Video: This Sunday's theatre question is about those special and spontaneous curtain call moments

Sometimes when the actors line up to take a bow at the end of a play it can be emotional, revealing or provoke some spontaneous fun or japes.

One of my favourite curtain call moments involved two of the actors doing a joke replay of a scene in the play.

Do you have a favourite curtain call moment? Tell me in the comments.

I've compiled a list of my favourite curtain call moments from the past 10 years which you can find here and if you've missed a Sunday theatre question, here are a few I've already posted:

What sparked your love of theatre?

The question about Shakespeare.

The question about unexpected audience experiences.

The question about directors.

The question about which theatre production you'd revive?

If you want to see more of my videos, including my 60-second reviews, follow my YouTube channel, like my Facebook page or follow me on Instagram, whichever is your favourite platform 🤓

 

10th Birthday list: My favourite theatre curtain call moments

I love curtain calls at the end of plays. It's a revealing time when characters are shaken off - or not - when faces perhaps show the person underneath the acting mask.

Swan Theatre view from the stage
View from the stage at the RSC Swan Theatre. Photo Rev Stan

They can also be a time of japes, fun and banter.

From time to time over the past 10 years of blogging I've mention curtain calls, they even have their own category in my end of year awards on occasions, so I decided to compile a list of  my favourites:

1. Only on the last night of the RSC's Richard II could the King (David Tennant) and his deposer Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) have a final tussle for the crown. It was 2-0 to Bolingbroke in the end, David Tennant's curtain call lunge to take the golden circlet from Nigel Lindsay was not quite fast enough.

2. Another last night, this time the end of the run was all a bit too much for the cast of Mojo at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Daniel Mays looked like he'd been crying backstage and Ben Whishaw and Rupert Grint were fighting tears.

3. And another last night...Mark Strong couldn't hide his emotions at the end of A View From the Bridge at the Young Vic but instead of tears, he mouthed a satisfied 'yes' while making a fist.

4. At the curtain call of cold war drama Anna, National Theatre, there was a polite request from the cast who held up a series of cards which spelt out 'No Spoilers'.

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Theatre streaming: National Theatre announces four more brilliant plays to watch at home

When the National Theatre announced it was going to be streaming plays from its archive I had a wish list in my head of what I'd like to see or see again.

NT Live May June play streaming detailsAnd one of the ones that I really want to see again is Tom Hiddleston's Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse back in 2013.

It was a super hot ticket as the Donmar is such a small, intimate theatre - and TH was becoming a big-screen star then - and so I was chuffed to bits that I managed to get a pair of tickets.

The quality of the performances and the portrayal combined with the fact that I was sitting a few feet from the knee-level stage made this such a memorable production.

And then there is A Streetcar Named Desire starring the amazing Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster which was also on my 'love to see again' list.

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10th Birthday list: Best play I've seen for each of the last 10 years (or the agony to choose list)

So this month Rev Stan's Theatre blog is 10 years old. My first post was 18 April 2010, it took a couple of weeks before I was to post again but the marker was in the sand.

Various theatre tickets

I had lots of ideas for fun theatre nerdery to celebrate but the lockdown has clipped my wings a little bit as many of them involved actually be at the theatre.

But not to let a decade of theatre bloggery go by without marking the occasion I've got a few other things up my sleeve for the coming few weeks/months.

And to kick things off I've compiled a list of my favourite play for each year I've been blogging (I did my 10 best plays of the decade back in December).

It has been fun revisiting my best-of lists but absolutely agony narrowing each list down to just one, as you will see.

I'm still not 100% happy but here goes:

2010

I initially chose The Pride, Lucille Lortel Theater, New York which saw Ben Whishaw make his Broadway debut alongside Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough but then I realised that technically I saw that in February 2010 before Rev Stan's Theatre blog was born. So I've reluctantly decided it doesn't count.

So my second choice is Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre. It's a play that set the benchmark for uncomfortable humour and one which I regularly reference when talking about superb dark comedies.

2011

Jeez, this was a tough one. This was the year I saw Jerusalem, Much Ado with Tennant and Tate and Collaborators, National Theatre to name just three. But with much soul-searching I'm going to choose Flare Path, Theatre Royal Haymarket because it was so beautiful and warm and sad and I'll always remember Sheridan Smith's trembling bottom lip and a brilliant early performance by Matthew Tennyson. Saw it more than once too.

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Review: Live and interactive theatre in your living room - Creation Theatre's The Tempest

Archive streaming schmeaming, Creation Theatre have taken theatre performance during the lockdown to a new level.

Creation Theatre Tempest Screen shot Miranda
Screenshot: Creation Theatre's virtual The Tempest - Annabelle Terry as Miranda

Using Zoom and other technical wizardry they are putting on a live and interactive family-friendly version of The Tempest.

Shakespeare's tale of nobility shipwrecked on a mysterious island has been distilled down to an hour's running time using a handful of key characters.

The actors, observing lockdown rules, perform in isolation - using different virtual and physical backdrops to transport them from scene to scene.

As a member of the audience, you can choose whether to have your camera on or off. If you do choose the former the 'audience' only appear when called upon to get involved with the story.

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Video: This Sunday's theatre question is about Shakespeare

On Desert Island Discs you get given the complete works of Shakespeare to take with you but what if instead of that you got to choose one production of one Shakespeare play?

Tell me what you would choose - and why - in the comments.

(Excuse the missing captions in the middle, Clips app is not having a good day today.)

During this period of social distancing, there is still plenty of theatre available to watch online and I've compiled a list of some of what is available.

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