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”

Review: Julius Caesar, Bridge

 
“He thinks too much – such men are dangerous”
 
Though it is billed as ‘a promenade staging’ and the website refers to ‘mob tickets’ and ‘immersive ticket holders’, make no mistake that if you’re in the pit for Julius Caesar, you’re standing. For two hours. There’s a bit of movement, as in five paces that way or this when a new bit of the set has to wheeled into place but don’t be distracted into thinking there’s anything more on offer here than can be gotten further along the South Bank at the Globe (apart from a roof of course, which allows them to charge five times the price, or three times if you book your tickets via TodayTix).

 
And as with being a groundling, there are decided pros and cons to experiencing theatre this way. The first half of Shakespeare’s political thriller works extremely well under this modern-dress treatment from Nicholas Hytner. As you enter the Bridge’s auditorium, reconceived into the round here, the pit is filled with a rock gig, vendors sell beer and baseball caps, a febrile energy fills the space which carries through to the arrival of David Calder’s populist Caesar with his red cap and puerile slogan ‘Do this!’ (Contemporary allusions are clear but later on you may find the mind gets weirdly drawn to Murdoch more than Trump…).

Continue reading “Review: Julius Caesar, Bridge”

Review: Tomorrow Creeps, VAULT Festival

“He received them with a strange delight”
 

As an intellectual exercise, Golem!’s Tomorrow Creeps is something of a delight – a new play by David Fairs stitched together from 16 works by Shakespeare and shot through with lyrical inspiration from Kate Bush. And in the dark and dank surroundings of the Cavern, with creepingly textured sound work from Odinn Hilmarsson and a powerfully atmospheric lighting design (uncredited), the potential of the piece is palpable.

 The reality is something a little more elusive though. In this shadowy world, strangeness abounds. The Hollow Hero has imprisoned The Fallen Tyrant but needs his help for something or other; the malevolent Tyrant misses his dead wife as she is called The Spectral Queen, it turns out she’s closer to hand than he thinks; and the supernatural haunts everything they do with noted kook Hecate willing to cause nuisance at the shake of a salt cellar. 

Continue reading “Review: Tomorrow Creeps, VAULT Festival”

Full cast for the RSC’s upcoming Macbeth revealed

The full cast for the RSC’s upcoming production of Macbeth has been announced.

Christopher Eccleston, making his debut at Stratford-upon-Avon,  as Macbeth and Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth had already been announced and will be joined by:

  • David Acton (Duncan)
  • Raphael Sowole (Banquo)
  • Edward Bennett (Macduff)
  • Bally Gill (Ross)
  • Luke Newberry (Malcolm)
  • Tim Samuels (Lennox)
  • Mariam Haque (Lady MacDuff)
  • Donna Banya (Donalbain/Gentlewoman)
  • Stevie Basaula (Bloody Captain/Second Murderer),
  • Katy Brittain (Doctor)
  • Raif Clarke (Boy)
  • Paul Dodds (Chamberlain 1)
  • Michael Hodgson Porter)
  • John Macaulay (Chamberlain/Lord)
  • Tom Padley (First Murderer)
  • Josh Finan (Company)
  • Afolabi Alli (Company)

The production will be directed by Polly Findlay and runs at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 20 March to 18 September with previews from 13 March.

 

Review: King Lear, Minerva

“He hath always but slightly, known himself”
 
As I wrote when the full cast was first announced, “the world is hardly crying for more productions of King Lear but if you’re going to put it on, you might as well go balls out on some amazing casting”. And now that the time has come to trek over to Chichester Festival Theatre to catch Ian McKellen revisiting a role he has already been most renowned for playing, you’re left in awe once again at the luxuries casting director Anne McNulty has brought to bear in Jonathan Munby’s modern-dress and modern-spirited production.
 
Chief among them is Sinéad Cusack’s Kent. It’s a casting decision that deserves the emphasis for Chichester has long been a venue where female representation has struggled across the board and though it is still early days yet for Daniel Evans’ tenure here, any steps are welcome. Tamara Lawrance as Cordelia is another example and a powerful contrast too. Where Cusack brings all her experience to bear as a superbly nuanced Kent (whose disguising gains real resonance), Lawrance brings a freshness of spirit to her most compassionate reading of Lear’s youngest daughter.

Continue reading “Review: King Lear, Minerva”

News: RADA President Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet

Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier Award-winning theatre company will join forces with RADA for a co-production of Hamlet, to support the transformation of RADA’s Chenies Street site in London, further developing the Academy as a world-leader in dramatic arts training.

The production will feature RADA alumnus Tom Hiddleston in the title role and will play a strictly limited three week run at RADA’s 160-seat Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre from 1-23 September 2017.
All funds raised will support the RADA Attenborough Campaign, which aims to raise £20million, enabling the regeneration of the Academy’s Chenies Street premises.

The acting company and creative team are made up from members of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company and RADA. They are:

  • Ayesha Antoine (Rosencrantz / Bernarda), 
  • Lolita Chakrabarti (Queen Gertrude), 
  • Nicholas Farrell (King Claudius), 
  • Sean Foley (Polonius / Osric), 
  • Tom Hiddleston (Hamlet), 
  • Ansu Kabia (King Hamlet / Player King / Gravedigger), 
  • Caroline Martin (Horatia),
  • Eleanor de Rohan (Guildastern / Marcella / Priest), 
  • Irfan Shamji (Laertes / Player Queen) 
  • Kathryn Wilder (Ophelia)

Hamlet will be designed by James Cotterill with lighting design by Paul Pyant (both RADA graduates) and sound design by Paul Ardittiand Christopher Reid. Lucy Bevan and Emily Brockmann are casting directors for the production.


To ensure that the ticket release is fair, a ballot will open at midday on 1 August, which can be entered online until 6pm on Sunday 6 August, and by phone from midday on 1 August until 5pm on 5 August (lines are open daily 10am – 5pm). Successful applicants shall be notified by or on 8 August and will then have 48 hours to book their tickets on 9-10 August.
Selected at random, all successful ballot applicants are guaranteed the opportunity to purchase a maximum of two tickets within the allotted 48 hour booking window. Tickets for specific dates however cannot be guaranteed and all dates are available on a first-come-first-served basis. 
Purchases will be limited to a maximum of two per person across all performances. No tickets to be sold by third parties and resale of tickets is strictly prohibited. To help prevent the chance of resale, customers will only be able to collect their tickets on the day of the performance (60 mins before the show begins). Bookers must bring relevant documentation to collect their tickets, and photo identification will be required for under-25s bookers to gain access to the auditorium.
Additionally, no returns shall be offered for the production. Consequently there will be neither a returns queue, nor day tickets available to purchase for Hamlet at the RADA box office in person or online.
Twenty percent of tickets will be priced at £15 and are only available to audiences aged 25 and under. A further twenty percent will be priced at £45, with the remaining tickets at £95.

Casting for Chichester’s King Lear announced

“Reason not the need”

The world is hardly crying for more productions of King Lear but if you’re going to put it on, you might as well go balls out on some amazing casting (all credit to casting director Anne McNulty here). Jonathan Munby’s production had already announced Ian McKellen as part of the ensemble (teasing an interesting casting breakdown that didn’t actually come to anything) but that’s a small niggle in what is otherwise some excellent news.

  • Sinéad Cusack as Kent
  • Dervla Kirwan, Kirsty Bushell and Tamara Lawrance as Goneril, Regan and Cordelia
  • Jonathan Bailey and Damien Molony as Edgar and Edmund
  • Sinéad Cusack as Kent
  • Michael Matus (Oswald), Dominic Mafham (Albany) and Patrick Robinson (Cornwall) in there as well
  • Danny Webb as Gloucester
  • Did I mention Sinéad Cusack as Kent?
  • I can take or leave Phil Daniels as the Fool but he may well surprise.

Tickets are all sold out so you might want to monitor regularly for returns or hope for the transfer which one suspects is already in the making.

Too-hot-to-re-review: Hamlet, Harold Pinter

“I shall not look upon his like again”

My lack of willpower when it comes to theatre is infamous, even more so on the rare occasions when I get invited to be someone’s plus one, with the responsibility of filing my own review lifted from the shoulders for once. Thus I found myself at the Harold Pinter for the transfer of the Almeida’s Hamlet, a production I enjoyed immensely on the two occasions I saw it in North London and whose charms I wasn’t entirely sure would translate to the larger theatre here. 
Those fears were largely unfounded – the scale of the intimate family drama that Robert Icke has fashioned from Shakespeare’s ever-present tragedy amplifies effectively, and Andrew Scott’s deeply conversational style still resonates strongly (in the stalls at least) through the familiar verse, finding new readings and meanings. If I’m brutally honest, I don’t think I gained too much from this repeat viewing but that’s just my rarified position – it is still a thrilling piece of theatre and it’s a thrill to see it in the West End.
Running time: 3 hours 35 minutes (with 2 intervals)
Booking until 2nd September, Juliet Stevenson leaves the company on 1st July when she is replaced by Derbhle Crotty