Review: Julius Caesar, Crucible

“Why, saw you anything more wonderful?”

 Robert Hastie’s opening salvo as the new Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres might not immediately quicken the pulse as we’ve hardly been lacking for productions of Julius Caesar. But it is soon apparent that this is a canny director at work, making his mark on the Crucible Theatre and how its space is used, on our notions of how Shakespeare is traditionally interpreted, establishing what looks like exciting times ahead for Sheffield.

With designer Ben Stones, Hastie opens out the stage into a space of transformative and unpredictable power – the modern political arena is evoked with its UN-style chambers and mod-cons but it is just as much the powder-keg of changeable public opinion. And the way in which the two intersect, feed into each other, thus feels as informed by hatemongering Sun or Daily Mail headline-grabbing antics as it does by the words of a sixteenth century writer. Continue reading “Review: Julius Caesar, Crucible”

Full casting for Robert Hastie’s Julius Caesar

 
Full casting has been announced for Robert Hastie’s upcoming production of Julius Caesar at Sheffield Crucible, his first at the helm, and it looks like an absolute doozie. Not only has he brought back former artistic director Samuel West and tempted definitive-fave-of-this-blog Elliot Cowan back to the stage, Hastie is continuing his commitment to gender parity by recruiting a company of eight men and eight women and sharing out the roles how he damn well wants. 

So the show features Samuel West in the role of Brutus, alongside Jonathan Hyde as Julius Caesar. Zoe Waites will play Cassius, Elliot Cowan will play Mark Antony and Chipo Chung will star as Portia/Octavius. The cast is completed by Lisa Caruccio Came (Calpurnia), Pandora Colin (Casca), Robert Goodale (Lepidus), Alison Halstead (Metellus), Mark Holgate (Cinna), Arthur Hughes (Lucius), Robinah Kironde (Popilus, Clitus), Lily Nichol (Soothsayer), Royce Pierreson (Ligarius, Dardanius), Abigail Thaw (Trebonius) and Paul Tinto (Artemidorus, Pindarus).

In case you’ve forgotten, Hastie directed Michelle Terry in the title role in last year’s Henry V at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, and Sheffield is clearly very lucky to have him leading one of the country’s leading theatrical institutions. Julius Caesar runs at Sheffield Crucible from 23 May to 10 June, with previews from 17 May, and I’ll definitely be making my way northwards for this.

 

 

 

Review: Home Chat, Finborough

“I’ve got to convince you of my complete innocence and I don’t know how”

It’s a mystery really, how a playwright as renowned as Noël Coward can have a play that few have heard of and even fewer have actually seen. But it’s a genuine marvel that that play turns out to be a sparkling diamond, the Finborough once again coming up with the goods in exploring deep into the dustier realm of the literary canon. Home Chat has not been seen in the UK for nearly 90 years but on the evidence of Martin Parr’s revelatory production here, you wouldn’t be surprised to see it take it place alongside the more familiar of Coward’s works that frequently pepper the repertoire.

Not least because it contains a corker of a female lead in the figure of Janet Ebony, a garrulous gutsy character who tosses contemporary notions of morality under the microscope and finds British society to be severely lacking. Home Chat begins with a train crash, wittily mounted here in miniature, but it’s not the disaster that is the focus, rather the scandalous implications for its survivors. For it is revealed that Janet and her best friend Peter Chelsworth, who both escaped unscathed, were sharing a sleeping car and their family and friends back in Chelsea are simply outraged. Continue reading “Review: Home Chat, Finborough”

Review: King Lear, Almeida

“This is the excellent foppery of the world” 

Considered one of the defining roles for actors, there never seems to be a lack of King Lears on our stages and in 2012, it is Jonathan Pryce’s turn to wear the crown in this Michael Attenborough production for the Almeida. Such is the potential for great quality at this North London theatre that when they get everything right, there’s a beautiful marriage between the epic and the intimate (as advertised) and this is largely what we get here.

Pryce’s Lear is a father first and foremost, and losing some of the distance that accompanies an overly regal bearing results in a rather effective focus on the emotions of the man rather than the monarch. Thus the rage, the tenderness, the regret, the pain that he feels – elucidated with some masterful re-readings of the text – is always accessible and persuasive. The look in his eye during ‘I know thee well enough…’ cuts to the very core; his bantering relationship with his Fool borne of a genuine connection between the pair, Trevor Fox’s native Geordie accent a perfect fit to the riddle-me-dees and sharp observations and really demanding full attention. Continue reading “Review: King Lear, Almeida”

Review: Hedda Gabler, Richmond Theatre

“Let’s all just cheer up and start enjoying ourselves”

It would appear that the punishment for appearing in Madame de Sade last year is banishment to South-West London: Dame Judi is currently doing time in Kingston and Rosamund Pike has now surfaced in Richmond, in this latest version of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler: should we expect Deborah Findlay to surface in Wimbledon sometime soon? (actually I’d go pretty much anywhere to see her, I think she’s ace!)

But I digress. Ibsen’s tale of the conflict between how a woman feels and behaves and how she is expected by society to feel and behave, is told in the form of the newly married Hedda, resigned to a safe and loveless marriage yet still yearning for a life of passion and willing to manipulate anyone anyhow in order to feel something. And it is told extremely well here with a dark humour that I have never seen before in an Ibsen which made me love it, and an incredibly strong ensemble who have gelled extremely well. The interactions between the characters are quite something to behold, their conversations feel so incredibly real, sparking off each other with ease, and breathing a life and urgency into the text that made a much welcomed, stark contrast to the dour recent Ghosts. Continue reading “Review: Hedda Gabler, Richmond Theatre”

Review: Mrs Klein, Almeida

“If you want to be an analyst of any worth, you have to trust your patients with the truth, however harsh. They’re strong, they’ll take it.”

After the highly successful Duet for One which toured and then transferred into the West End, we return once again to the theme of psychoanalysis with this revival of Mrs Klein at the Almeida theatre in Islington.

Struggling to come to terms with the death of her son Hans in a climbing accident, noted controversial psychoanalyst Melanie Klein asks a colleague to cover for her while she goes to the funeral. Paula, recently escaped from the rising anti-Semitic persecution in Germany, is finding it hard to make a living in London and agrees to this, but is interrupted by the arrival of Klein’s daughter Melitta also a psychoanalyst, resentful of her presence and angry with her mother’s domineering behaviour. After Mrs Klein herself returns unexpectedly, Paula gets caught up in the longstanding conflict between mother and daughter which comes to crisis point in the wake of revelations about Hans’s death. Continue reading “Review: Mrs Klein, Almeida”