Casting news aplenty!

I round up some of the recent casting news, including Queen Margaret at the Royal Exchange, Wasted at the Southwark Playhouse, Measure for Measure at the Donmar and The Woods at the Royal Court.

Shakespeare wrote more lines for Queen Margaret than he did for King Lear yet we know very little of her. Jeanie O’Hare re-acquaints us with one of Shakespeare’s major but rarely performed characters in her new play Queen Margaret. In a production that draws on original language from Shakespeare, director Elizabeth Freestone and Jade Anouka as Margaret, retell an iconic moment in British History through the eyes of the extraordinary Margaret of Anjou. This captivating exploration of The Wars of the Roses seen through the eyes of this astonishing, dangerous and thrilling woman opens the Royal Exchange’s Autumn Winter 2018/19 Season.

Anouka is joined by Islam Bouakkaz (Prince Edward/Rutland), Lorraine Bruce (York), Samuel Edward-Cook (Suffolk/Clifford), Dexter Flanders (Edward IV), Helena Lymbery (Hume), Lucy Mangan (Joan of Arc), Roger Morlidge (Gloucester), Kwami Odoom (Somerset/Richard), Bridgitta Roy (Warwick) and Max Runham (Henry VI). Continue reading “Casting news aplenty!”

Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Roman Theatre of Verulamium St Albans

OVO Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing gets transplanted to a 50s American diner in the ruins of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans, and to great effect

“I saw him scurrying away in melancholy like James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause

A first trip to St Albans for me, and to the atmospheric surroundings of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium, where OVO Theatre have established quite the reputation for open-air Shakespeare alongside their more regular programming at the Maltings Theatre. And the prospect of a Much Ado About Nothing drenched in 1950s Americana was one that piqued my interest, even if the well-realised shiny set design sits a little incongruously among the Roman ruins.

Adam Nichols and Janet Podd’s bold re-envisioning of the play pays dividends in all sorts of unexpected ways – this is Messina but not as we know it. We find ourselves in 1959 at Leonata’s Bar and Grill, a fine music venue somewhere in the Midwest, where the crew of the USS Gull are to rock up after a tour in the Far East. And in a bit of extratextual business at the beginning, we see Leonata’s daughter Hero Beyoncé her way into the role of lead singer in up-and-coming band The Sonnettes. The name of the woman she replaced? Joanna. Continue reading “Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Roman Theatre of Verulamium St Albans”

Review: The Tempest, St Paul’s Church

Iris Theatre’s production of The Tempest at St Paul’s Church doesn’t quite conjure enough of a spell over its audience in Covent Garden

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises”

I’ve dipped in and out of Iris Theatre’s open air Shakespeares since starting this whole blogging lark. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden, St Paul’s Church and its gardens are an unexpected spot of contemplative beauty. And at their best, the productions here utilise the idiosyncracies of this space perfectly – their 2010 Romeo and Juliet remains one of the best I’ve ever seen.

But operating in one of the busiest spots of one of the busiest world capitals also has its drawbacks. And competing against the noise of the flow of Covent Garden street theatre can make the theatre here a challenge. Throw in the practicalities of ushering a large crowd around a limited space, for the shows here are always promenade, and it is far too easy to lose the spell under which audiences need to remain.   Continue reading “Review: The Tempest, St Paul’s Church”

Review: Kiss Me, Kate, London Coliseum

Opera North’s production does nothing to address the inherent problems of Kiss Me, Kate and thus feels like a relic of the past

“The overture is about to start,
You cross your fingers and hold your heart”

Revivals speak a lot to where an organisation sees itself. With its heady combination of Shakespearean drama and Cole Porter’s musical wit, Kiss Me, Kate has all the air of a sure bet about it and indeed, Jo Davies first mounted this production for Opera North in 2015, this revival of that revival being directed here by Ed Goggin as it opens here at the Coliseum.

But for all its familiarity, and that inherent bankability, it feels a problematic choice to stage. In a contemporary Britain, in a society switched onto #MeToo, even the sexual politics of something as notionally fatuous as Love Island are being newly parsed and much of what has long been considered acceptable, or tolerated due to ‘classic’ status, is rightly being reassessed.   Continue reading “Review: Kiss Me, Kate, London Coliseum”

News: International Rescue Committee and Shakespeare’s Globe reveal the ‘Stranger’s Case’ for #WorldRefugeeDay

International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Shakespeare’s Globe have come together to mark World Refugee Day with a powerfully moving short film – the “Stranger’s Case”.

Actors from some of the biggest TV shows and Broadway shows have come together with refugees from Syria, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan (half of the people who appear in the film have fled conflict) to perform a previously banned speech widely believed to have been written by William Shakespeare, from the collaborative 16th-century play “Sir Thomas More”.

Watch the film here:

and then explore what Shakespeare’s Globe is doing for #RefugeeWeek, and think about supporting International Rescue Committee’s work here.

 

News: National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019

So much goodness announced here in the National Theatre’s near future – particularly excited for Nine Night’s transfer, what looks like a leading role for Siân Brooke and the prospect of Joanna Riding’s ‘Losing My Mind’. 

National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019

Nine Night, Natasha Gordon’s critically acclaimed debut play transfers to the West End following a sold-out run at the NT

Further cast announced for Antony and Cleopatra alongside Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo, playing from September

Cast confirmed for world premiere of David Hare’s new play I’m Not Running, including Siân Brooke, Alex Hassell and Joshua McGuire

Peter Brook returns to direct at the National Theatre for the first time in 50 years with The Prisoner, co-directed with Marie-Hélène Estienne

Following the acclaimed Consent, Nina Raine returns to the NT with her new play Stories starring Claudie Blakley

Anthony Neilson makes his NT debut with new play The Tell-Tale Heart, based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe

Alexander Hanson and Joanna Riding to join the cast of Follies alongside Janie Dee and Peter Forbes, returning to the Olivier Theatre in February 2019

War Horse returns to the NT marking the centenary of Armistice Day

Antony and Cleopatra and I’m Not Running to  broadcast to 65 countries worldwide as part of NT Live

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first women in the UK gaining the right to vote, the NT stages Courage Everywhere; a series of rehearsed readings, talks and screenings Continue reading “News: National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019”

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”