DVD Review: Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare’s Globe

“The world is not thy friend”

When does one know that one has seen the definitive interpretation of a particular show? And who gets to decide these things? I’m not quite sure, but watching the Globe’s 2009 production of Romeo & Juliet on DVD, I very much got the feeling that Rupert Goold’s RSC version might just be as good as this play will ever get.

Neither lead performer really captures or engages the heart and convinces of the inevitability of their journey. Adetomiwa Edun and Ellie Kendrick have the teenage precocity but their youthfulness works against articulating a genuine sense of capricious, all-encompassing love: there’s no charisma to their performances and so little is really invested in their plight. Continue reading “DVD Review: Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare’s Globe”

DVD Review: Les Misérables in concert: The 25th Anniversary

“There’s a reckoning to be reckoned”

Forming the culmination of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of Les Misérables was a pair of concert versions of the show taking place at the O2 centre in Greenwich which brought together the company of companies, over 500 actors and musicians joining forces to pay tribute to this enduing classic of a show. The cast and companies of the touring production and the West End production joined with a massive choir and orchestra and a hand-picked international cast performed the lead roles in this concert presentation which was also relayed live into cinemas and later released on DVD to be enjoyed by those who chose not to go (or couldn’t get tickets).

Concert versions of shows are always a bit funny, performers singing songs to each other but looking straight out at audiences and limited opportunity for acting so they can often feel a little constrained in their presentation. Here, the cast were in full costume and projections and clips from the show used to fill in some of the gaps that the songs could not fill. And it is all really rather good if not quite the self-proclaimed “musical event of a lifetime”. Continue reading “DVD Review: Les Misérables in concert: The 25th Anniversary”

DVD Review: Macbeth

This filmed version of Macbeth follows on from the well-received Hamlet, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, that was also captured for posterity but given the filmic treatment rather than just recorded on stage. The entire adult cast, including Stewart and Kate Fleetwood as the murderous couple, from the original Chichester production reunited to film this in high definition in the gloomy tunnels and bunker-like rooms at Walbeck Abbey.

Director Rupert Goold relocates the action to the Cold War Era thus making war-torn Scotland something closer to Stalinist Russia:, the hallmarks of fascism are ever-present with giant posters of the ruler dominating rooms, a police state mentality prevailing with torture used to maintain fear and control over the people as the Macbeths seek to sate their bloodlust and desire for the crown through any means necessary.

I’m not too sure how I feel about Stewart as an actor, something about him just turns me off, but he is undoubtedly impressive here, demonstrating a clinical control over the verse and playing the dictator-like ambition turning to paranoid desperation with conviction. Fleetwood’s Lady Macbeth was chillingly effective as the driving force behind this blood-thirsty ambition, portraying a real malevolence that curdles inside her as the loveless marriage begins to crack.

Goold’s assignment of the weird sisters as surgical-masked nurses who are frequently seen around the edges of scenes puts a stronger emphasis on the supernatural side of things, suggesting the ominous inevitability of his fate and perhaps even manipulating it themselves. Polly Frame, Sophie Hunter and Niamh McGrady are all excellent though and the visual and sound effects employed on their performances adds an extra layer of disturbing menace.

As ever, Macduff and Malcolm’s killer scene dragged interminably, but there were nice performances from Tim Treloar as a bookish Ross, Suzanne Burden as the butchered Lady Macduff. But what shines as the biggest benefit to the whole thing is the use of close-ups to really capture the nuances of performances that could well have escaped people on the front row, never mind up in the gods. There’s a level of detail that one is allowed to observe here, that really elevates this from a mere recording of a staged production and demonstrating where this format has a clear value and shouldn’t just be dismissed as ‘no substitute for the real thing’.

Yes, this is not the same thing as going to the theatre but nor is it pretending to be and instead offers an opportunity that couldn’t really be equalled whilst sat in the stalls and made this an interesting and significant thing to watch.

Review: Far From The Madding Crowd, ETT via Digital Theatre

“I shall do one thing in this life. That is love you, long for you and keep wanting you ’til I die”

A couple of weeks ago, Digital Theatre ran a January sale promotion which meant that you could get their plays for well under a fiver, which reminded me I had previously downloaded English Touring Theatre’s production of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd but never quite got round to watching it. I’ve previously reviewed The Comedy Of Errors which was highly enjoyable and so I thought Digital Theatre was worth another try, especially since I’d paid for this one! This particular production was recorded at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud theatre on November 15th 2008

Having inherited her father’s farm, a spirited and feisty young woman – Bathsheba Everdene, finds herself playing mistress in a man’s world as she is determined to do things her way and her impetuous nature sometimes gets the better of her. She is pursued by three would-be lovers: the constant shepherd, Gabriel Oak; the obsessive landowner, William Boldwood and the reckless Sergeant Troy and as this is Hardy, real tragedy is never far round the corner. Continue reading “Review: Far From The Madding Crowd, ETT via Digital Theatre”