Review: Persuasion, Royal Exchange

“We cannot all live in a fairytale”

 
I’ve been looking forward to Jeff James’ reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion ever since it was announced, James having worked with Ivo van Hove as an associate director and the evidence of his work that I’ve seen thus far (in La Musica) really impressing. The influence from the Belgian master is palpable but it is manifesting itself in fascinating ways, interrogating notions of adaptation and theatrical experience in ways that we too rarely see in the UK.

You see it in the ways that he uses the relatively inflexible space of the Royal Exchange (IMHO van Hove rarely gets the credit he deserves for the way in which he reinvents theatrical space) and the way he positions his actors, saying so much about relationships and their dynamics without a word. And Alex Lowde’s supremely contemporary design boldly situates this Regency drama in the here and now, shifting even within itself in showing us Anne Elliot’s world. Continue reading “Review: Persuasion, Royal Exchange”

Review: Macbeth, Young Vic

“Let not light see my black and deep desires”

Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin employed their dance-focused aesthetic on their production of Medea for the National Theatre last year and have now returned to it for this Young Vic, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and HOME co-production of Macbeth. It’s a unique approach which has moments of real visual acuity in Lizzie Clachan’s infinity tunnel staging but also pulls awkwardly at the play itself, dominating the verse to its detriment.

Which is a real shame, as a Macbeth with John Heffernan and Anna Maxwell Martin ought to have been a scorching thing, their interesting casting offering worlds of new possibilities for this old warhorse of a play. But Cracknell’s staging and Guerin’s choreography offers little room for them to explore their characters in a deeply satisfying way. Instead, a lack of palpable chemistry haunts their scenes whilst the dancing mainly distracts. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Young Vic”

Review: Pitcairn, Shakespeare’s Globe

“It is as if we find ourselves at the beginning of time…”

It may be Shakespeare’s Globe but it is Richard Bean’s when it comes to new writing at this venue and he returns once again with a Globe, Out of Joint and Chichester Festival Theatre co-production about the island colony of Pitcairn which was set up by Fletcher Christian in the wake of the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. Playing with the ideas of revolutionary freedom that were burning so fiercely on the other side of the globe, Christian dreamed of creating an Utopian ideal out of the sailors who left with him and a group of Polynesian men and women but perhaps unsurprisingly, little that was ideal came out of it.

Little that is ideal comes out of this play either. Bean throws in a number of interesting ideas into his Pitcairn – the power struggles between comrades, the jealousies that come out of the supposed liberation of sexual freedom, the culture clash that arises out of the enduring adherence to the Tahitian tradition of utmost respect for hierarchy. But it all adds up to very little and Bean has also incorporated some dodgier elements especially when it comes to the cringe-worthy expression of that sexual freedom, the constant reliance of embarrassingly dated notions of the ‘natives’ (let’s dance!) and audience participation that doesn’t really fly. Continue reading “Review: Pitcairn, Shakespeare’s Globe”