Review: Shakespeare’s Mad Women – A Love Letter to Shakespearean F?!kboys, TheatreN16

Lady Macbeth, Ophelia and Juliet get a moment to themselves in the intelligently amusing Shakespeare’s Mad Women – A Love Letter to Shakespearean F?!kboys, at TheatreN16

“If the world wants mad women, they can have them. This place is enough to drive anyone stark, raving insane”

Lady Macbeth, Ophelia and Juliet walk into a bar…it sounds like the set-up for a great joke. Swap out the bar for an amorphous corner of the afterlife and you get the set-up for the delightfully titled debut production from Lady Garden Theatre, Shakespeare’s Mad Women – A Love Letter to Shakespearean F?!kboys, taking a short run at TheatreN16 after playing the Brighton Fringe last month.

This is the bit of the afterlife where Shakespeare’s female characters end up, specifically the ones who take their lives because of a man, and heaven knows there’s a lot of them. Juliet is the latest to join the group and when she arrives, she is naturally thoroughly discombobulated: instead of finding her Romeo with arms open wide, there’s two strange women drinking tea. Continue reading “Review: Shakespeare’s Mad Women – A Love Letter to Shakespearean F?!kboys, TheatreN16”

TV Review: King Lear, BBC Two

A contemporary adaptation of King Lear does little to prove its worth on BBC Two

“Some villain hath done me wrong”

A belated visit to this Bank Holiday TV offering and one I should probably have left alone. I’m not the biggest fan of King Lear, nor of Anthony Hopkins if I’m honest. But the notion of a contemporary adaptation and a deluxe level of supporting casting was enough of a draw for me to give it a try.

A co-production between the BBC and Amazon, this Lear has been adapted and directed by Richard Eyre. Trimmed down to a scant couple of hours and located in a contemporary England, it clearly has its eye on new audiences as much as your Shakespearean buff, and I’d be intrigued to know how the former reacted. Continue reading “TV Review: King Lear, BBC Two”

Review: As You Like It / Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Globe

Michelle Terry arrives as Shakespeare’s Globe’s new Artistic Director with a delightfully comic As You Like It and a sombre Hamlet

We know what we are, but know not what we may be

After Emma Rice’s promises to ‘rock the ground’ found little purchase with the board at Shakespeare’s Globe, it’s fair to say there have been a few people holding their breath with incoming Artistic Director Michelle Terry’s debut season about to start. One of our finest Shakespeareans, she’s placed the actor at the heart of her programming, which opens with the Globe Ensemble performing As You Like It and Hamlet in rep.

And not to belabour the point, but the difference does feel like the gap between someone who sees Shakespeare as a challenge and someone who sees it an opportunity. Terry’s approach may be less ostentatious but it feels no less quietly radical in flexibility to gender, race, disability and more. Across the two productions it provides some blissful and thought-provoking  moments that feel quietly revolutionary. Continue reading “Review: As You Like It / Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Watermill

A brilliantly inventive, inclusive and entertaining take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a great success at the Watermill Theatre

“Shall we their fond pageant see?”

In a week when Shakespearean-inclined eyes are trained on the opening of Michelle Terry’s tenure at the Globe with a season that promises to be “gender blind, race blind and disability blind”, it is gratifying to see other theatres in the UK already delivering this. And unsurprisingly, this kind of approach is full of rich potential to shake up your Shakespeare anew, making the Watermill’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream an unalloyed pleasure.

Paul Hart’s production is full of innovative touches which work separately like a treat and also combine into something really special. It wears its actor musicianship lightly as music is used brilliantly to delineate the otherworldliness of the woods. If ‘I Put A Spell On You’ might seem overly literal for the dosing of love-in-idleness but lyrically it proves a remarkable fit the love/hate relationship of this Titania and Oberon, so too of Puck’s frustration at that latter father-figure. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Watermill”

News: Cast and creative team announced for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York

There’s always a new or different way to do things, no matter how ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ London-based commentators get, and so the news of Europe’s first ever pop-up Shakespearean Theatre – SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE feels like a good thing to me. Taking up residence in York this summer, the Rose looks set to replicate something of the Globe experience, groundlings and all, for a whole new audience.

The 10-week season will consist of four plays, performed in repertory by two companies of actors 

  • A tragedy – Macbeth
  • A comedy – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • A tragic love story – Romeo and Juliet
  • A history – Richard III

Romeo and Juliet and Richard III will be directed by the award-winning Lindsay Posner, while York Theatre Royal’s Olivier Award-winning Artistic Director Damian Cruden will direct Macbeth, and Associate Director Juliet Forster will be putting her stamp on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

And particularly pleasing to see is that even in this setting which might be perceived as traditional as it gets, there’s a playfulness to the approach to the plays (from Cruden and Forster at least). Antony Bunsee and Amanda Ryan play Theseus and Hippolyta but in a bit of a switch, will also play Titania and Oberon respectively. There’s a female Puck too, plus Amy Lennox as Hermia which leaves me in no doubt as to which of these will be my priority to see! Continue reading “News: Cast and creative team announced for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York”

News: Casting for 2018 Donmar season

It looks like Josie Rourke is getting a little demob happy at the Donmar, as her penultimate season as artistic director sees a fresh twist on gender swapping that feels like a genuine first. Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden will star in a new production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in which they will alternate the roles of Isabella and Angelo, midway through the show. Heaven knows how it will work but Lord knows I can’t wait to find out.

Brian Friel’s Aristocrats, directed by Lyndsey Turner, is also added to the slate, and this will be Turner’s fourth staging of a Friel play after Faith Healer, Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Fathers and Sons. The cast includes Elaine Cassidy, Daniel Dawson, David Ganley, Emmet Kirwan, Aisling Loftus, Ciaran McIntyre and Eileen Walsh. Continue reading “News: Casting for 2018 Donmar season”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theatro Technis

The Acting Gymnasium present a music festical-inspired take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Theatro Technis

“Goblin, lead them up and down”

With an ensemble comprising of 12 nationalities, the Acting Gymanium are currently performing three plays in rep at Mornington Crescent’s Theatro Technis. And it was a contemporary music festival-inspired take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream,  adapted and directed by Gavin McAlinden, that tempted me the most

The festival setting is an inspired idea as far as the quartet of lovers is concerned. The heady rush of drug fuelled shenanigans is a good fit for these four and the actors respond well to the treatment, particularly John Celea’s Demetrius and Dorian Hasani’s Lysander whose lovelorn antics for Helena verge on the hysterical. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theatro Technis”

The 2017 Ian Charleson Awards nominees announced – time for an update?

Nominees have been announced for the 2017 Ian Charleson Awards:

Ellie Bamber for Hilde in The Lady from the Sea, Donmar Warehouse
Daniel Ezra for Sebastian in Twelfth Night, National Theatre
Tamara Lawrance for Viola in Twelfth Night, National Theatre
Rebecca Lee for Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, Watermill, Newbury
James Corrigan for Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Shakespeare Royal Shakespeare Company
Ned Derrington for Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Globe
Sope Dirisu for Coriolanus in Coriolanus, Royal Shakespeare Company
Arthur Hughes for Lucius in Julius Caesar, Crucible, Sheffield
Douggie McMeekin for Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Young Vic
Natalie Simpson for Duchess Rosaura in The Cardinal, Southwark Playhouse
Hannah Morrish for Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, Royal Shakespeare Company

The focus of the award is on roles in classical theatre – yours Ibsens, your Chehkovs, your overwhelming number of Shakespeares – but you do wonder whether there’s something about the kudos automatically granted here. Though there is diversity in the names selected here, the very notion of ‘classical’ as determined by the theatrical establishment seems to work against its actual ecology, at least as it relates to modern Britain.

I mean to not at all dishonour the legacy of Ian Charleson, but I do wonder whether the awards that bear his name recognise the bias that its limitations impose. If the Quentin Letts farrago shows us anything, it shows us how entrenched some of these attitudes are. But it also serves as a reminder that actors of colour (and women to some of the same extent) are ill-served by the ‘canon’.

I’m all for celebrating and highlighting the work of great young actors but I want all of them to be included. And yes, that makes the scope considerably wider but surely its time to acknowledge that there’re amazing actors who have never performed Shakespeare, and might never do Chekhov, but who are more than worthy of the kind of recognition offered here. 

Review: Macbeth, National Theatre

Rory Kinnear as Macbeth, Beatrice Scirocchi as Witch and Anna-Maria Nabirye as Witch in Macbeth at the National Theatre (c) Brinkhoff Mögenburg 1002-1006

A whole lot of post-apocalyptic hurly-burly and sadly not much more besides – the National Theatre’s Macbeth really is something of a red-trousered disappointment 

“You have displaced the mirth”

Brexit has ruined Britain. The war of the Scottish Secession has laid ruin to much of the land north of Hadrian’s Wall. The lawless society that has resulted is a place where people once again use plastic bags willy-nilly (for tidying up after beheadings, as party hats – take your pick), where no-one has a mobile phone (presumably because roaming charges have been re-introduced), where the Look at my fucking red trousers meme has translated into despotic rule.

Such is the world of Rufus Norris’ Macbeth which is set ‘now, after a civil war’, hence my slight embellishment of said setting. I should add that I thought of much of this while watching the production, an indication of the level of engagement that it managed to exert. It wasn’t always thus – a bloody prologue is viscerally and effectively done and the entrance of the witches has a genuine chill to its strangeness. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, National Theatre”

Review: The Winter’s Tale, National Theatre

The Winter's Tale, National Theatre, Gabby Wong

At the National Theatre in London, a moving rendition of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for kids, of all ages.

“There’s going to be a whole load of emotional reunions here”

The invitation to this adaptation of The Winter’s Tale came hand in hand with the warning that it is for younger audiences but even if it is aimed at 8-12 year olds, there was much to enjoy, lots to appreciate and just enough to make me cry. The excellent promotional image aside, it was the excellent Justin Audibert directing that was the main draw here and his work with his company did not disappoint.

Streamlined down to an hour, the focus really comes down to the relationships between parent and child, enhancing the throughline of the storytelling beautifully. I loved the idea that the root of this Leontes’ jealousy lay in Polixenes being a better dancer but by having Gabby Wong’s Perdita frame the whole thing as her story and giving Mamillius more time in the sun than usual here, there’s no doubting this is a story of fractured families and how, if at all, they can ever heal.   Continue reading “Review: The Winter’s Tale, National Theatre”