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
Emma Rice’s Summer of Love got off to a slightly sticky start at the Globe with a mystifying take on Romeo and Juliet from Daniel Kramer and as we move onto Twelfth Night, which she is directing herself, there’s a similarly uncompromising attitude in place.
As the audience enters, Greg Hicks sits at a pub table on an otherwise bare stage. It’s impossible not to watch him until the house lights dim, and this opening sets the tone for the two and a half hours to come.
Even with the best of intentions, it can be a little too easy to forget that there’s more to LGBT+ than just the G. Representations of gay men are increasingly common in our theatres but pickings are slim if we look towards the lesbian, bi, and transgender characters and stories.
All the kings are dead; all the heirs are dead – this is a particularly bloody time in royal history. It all centres around Richard III (Greg Hicks), the Machiavellian hunchback that lets no-one stop him for taking the crown for himself.
It’s no less radical a reinterpretation – the two lovers are reconceived as gay footballers here – but where Andy Bewley’s production really succeeds is in capturing the exultant highs of heady teen romance and the troubling lows of battling a world that doesn’t accept you.
“If music be the food of love, play on” and certainly the production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Manchester’s Royal Exchange is full of music, mirth and mischief, particularly during one particular night of mayhem.
The opening production in the ‘Summer of Love’ is Daniel Kramer’s Romeo and Juliet and following Rice’s lead, it is bold and brash, full of light and sound, and the kind of ferocious energy that you can easily imagine raising the hackles once again of those influential precious few.