Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bridge Theatre

Nicholas Hytner gives us an utterly inspired take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre, with Gwendoline Christie in stupendous form

“Come now; what masques, what dances shall we have”

You can tell a lot about a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the way it treats its Hippolyta. Possessed of so few words, her presence is nevertheless vital for setting the tone of the play and from the moment you walk into the Bridge Theatre, you just know Nicholas Hytner has got it right. This conquered queen is caged in a glass box, as if an artefact in some grotesque museum and as an impassive Gwendoline Christie fixes us with her  stare, it’s a definitive commentary on the gender politics here before we’ve even started.

But even once the play starts, her power is no less unremarkable. As Hermia claims she knows not by what power she is made bold, one look at Hippolyta’s hand against the glass leaves you in  no doubt of the source of her new found confidence. Small but powerful changes that set the scene perfectly for Hytner’s most striking innovation which, as it reveals itself in the following act, proved to be one of the most thrilling ways to re-infuse excitement into this oft-performed classic. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bridge Theatre”

Review: The Window / Blank Pages, Hope Theatre

“I expect you to tell me what you can see”

 

Frank Marcus’ best-known play The Killing of Sister George will soon be revived at the London Theatre Workshop over Fulham way but right now, there’s a chance to see the first UK revival of two of his short plays at the Hope Theatre on Upper Street. And in a serendipitous turn of events, Mingled Yarn’s production is directed by Rafaella Marcus, the playwright’s granddaughter, who selected The Windowand Blank Pages to present in this double bill.

In Rūta Irbīte’s elegant, existentially vague timber-framed set, Marcus Senior’s separate but interconnected tales of loneliness play out with a nigglingly insistent sense of claustrophobia, well cultivated by Marcus Junior’s astute direction. Both shorts delve into the lives of people caught in melancholy recollections of the past and how overindulgence thereof can make a prisoner of even the most outgoing of selves. Continue reading “Review: The Window / Blank Pages, Hope Theatre”

Review: Play of Thrones, Union

“Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile”

Director and adaptor Phil Willmott has made something of a point of mixing things up when it comes to Shakespeare at the Union. He’s revived the rarely seen King John, unearthed the controversial Double Falsehood, cast a female Lear and there’s no exception with Play of Thrones. Taking George R R Martin’s inspiration of The Wars of the Roses as a starting point, Willmott has fashioned a free adaptation of the three Henry VI plays, using Part Three as the spine for a story of epic sweep of warring kings, bloody betrayals and fierce ambition that wouldn’t be out of place in Westeros.

So we see the Houses of Lancaster and York tussle again for England’s crown as the kingdom is fatally destabilised by the death of Henry V and the accession of his infant son, Henry VI. The rival dynasties scheme away making politically advantageous marriages, starting surreptitious strategic affairs, setting up any number of brutal murders, even invoking otherworldly spirits to ensure that they win the game. So far so Song of Ice and Fire and there is fun to be had in spotting familiar character traits – Ygritte’s warrior spirit, Cersei’s cold manipulations, Joffrey’s immature obnoxiousness, Tyrion’s tactical nous.

Continue reading “Review: Play of Thrones, Union”