Stephen Jeffreys’ play tells the true story of John Wilmot, a 17th century gentleman and writer, who wasted his considerable talent on a life of drunken debauchery, before dying at just 33.
History Boy Dominic Cooper triumphs as the Restoration rake Rochester in revival of 1994 biog drama.
I experienced frequent flashbacks while watching The Libertine last night at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Here’s another Restoration-set comedy to hit the West End in which much of the action (and myriad in-jokes) takes place in and around a London theatre.
It is not surprising that theatre falls in love with the Restoration: the stage itself springing back to life after Puritan austerities, real actresses, free with their ways, extravagant dress, flying plackets and petticoats, flaunting periwigs, whorehouses, orange-girls rising from the mud and aristocrats declining into it.
Further cast members – including Ophelia Lovibund, Jasper Britton and Mark Hadfield – are announced to join the previously confirmed star Dominic Cooper in Stephen Jeffreys’ sexually charged masterpiece The Libertine this autumn.
But how do the plays translate to the small screen? Surprisingly well actually. The RSC’s theatre is tailormade for filming a production with the thrust stage allowing for a variety of angles ensuring the cameras really catch every emotion – both from the actors and the audience.
The RSC’s opening to Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary year could neither have been more extraordinary nor ambitious: the full cycle of the Henriad performed as an entire historical epic.
It won’t shock any of our readers to hear we’re very excited about The RSC presenting Henry V as part of their winter season. Their Henry IV was a highlight of 2014 and both productions, alongside the acclaimed Richard II from a few years back, head to London for an exciting run of the “Henries” cycle!
Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, continues his exploration through Shakespeare’s History plays as he directs Henry V, opening in Stratford-upon-Avon, before being broadcast to cinemas and transferring to the Barbican in London.
Alex Hassell, who played Prince Hal in both productions of Henry IV and recently played Biff Loman in Doran’s production ofDeath of a Salesman, plays the title role of King Henry.
Doran’s History tetralogy culminates in January 2016 at the Barbican in London, with a major theatrical event marking the start of the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death, King & Country, a complete 4-play season cycle of Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V playing in repertoire. Following the Barbican season, Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V tour to China and are then re-joined by Richard II in Spring 2016 for an exclusive season in the US, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).
The RSC is delighted to announce J.P. Morgan as the Global Tour Premier Partner for all four productions. J.P. Morgan will be supporting the upcoming tour in the UK, US and China where the RSC will perform Shakespeare’s History Plays.
October 2015, also marks the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt whilst Henry V performs in Stratford-upon-Avon, bringing added resonance to the play which uses the battle as the famous centrepiece of Henry V’s reign.
With the start of rehearsals for Henry V, the RSC begins the first pilot in the initiative to produce new, theatrically viable, Chinese translations of all Shakespeare’s 36 plays, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the First Folio in 2023. The RSC will create the translations in collaboration with Chinese writers and translators, who will be embedded into the RSC’s rehearsal process. Professor Zhang Chong, from Shanghai’s Fudan University will be the translator for Henry V working alongside playwright and Deputy General Manager of Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, Nick Yu.
The full cast for Henry V includes: Daniel Abbott (Gloucester/Monsieur le Fer); Martin Bassindale (Boy); Antony Byrne(Pistol); Sean Chapman (Exeter); Oliver Ford Davies (Chorus), Nicholas Gerard-Martin (Orleans/Bishop of Ely); Robert Gilbert (Dauphin); Alex Hassell (Henry V); Jim Hooper (Canterbury/Erpingham); Jennifer Kirby (Katherine); Jane Lapotaire(Queen Isobel); Sam Marks (Constable of France); Dale Mathurin (Bates/Bedford); Chris Middleton (Nym/Warwick/Governor of Harfleur); Evelyn Miller (Rambures/Lady-in-Waiting); Keith Osborn (Montjoy/Scroop); Sarah Parks (Mistress Quickly);Leigh Quinn (Alice); Joshua Richards (Bardolph/Fluellen); Simon Thorp (King of France); Obioma Ugoala (Grey/Gower);Andrew Westfield (Westmoreland/MacMorris) and Simon Yadoo (Cambridge/Williams/Jamy).
The Henry V Company will perform across all four plays of the King & Country cycle and are joined by David Tennant (Richard II); Julian Glover (John of Gaunt); Jasper Britton (Bolingbroke/Henry IV); Matthew Needham (Harry Percy/Hotspur/Mowbray) and Emma King (Lady-in-Waiting/Lady Mortimer/Doll Tearsheet).
The productions are designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis with lighting by Tim Mitchell. The music is composed by Paul Englishby with sound by Martin Slavin. The Movement director is Mike Ashcroft and the Fight director is Terry King.
Henry V will be broadcast ‘Live from Stratford-upon-Avon’ to cinemas in collaboration with Picturehouse Entertainment on 21 October 2015
To book tickets call 01789 403493 or online at www.rsc.org.uk
Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon
Written by Christopher Marlowe
Directed by Justin Audibert
Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta play takes a tale of cunning and avarice, love and hypocrisy and strips it down to the basest of humanities at its core. Barabas the Jew is a man for whom it is possible to feel both compassion and disgust. He hadn’t chosen his calling, having first been a physician, then an engineer and finally a usurer. Yet it is in that money-lending role that he is singled out by Ferneze, Malta’s Christian governor, to fill the island’s war chest or face conversion to Christianity. And as the Muslim Turks threaten Malta, so do we find Marlowe sketching out a contemporary, if troubling resonance, as the three Abrahamic faiths challenge each other
Justin Audibert’s intelligent production sees Jasper Britton give a warmth and joie de vivre to Barabas that one might not have expected from a man destined to ultimately wreak hideous revenge. Britton’s wiles and connivances serve only to endear him to the audience, whom he plays beautifully, with a string of raised eyebrows and intimately glanced asides. An unexpected counterpoint to the Jew is Ithamore, his Moorish slave. Lanre Malaolu bounces and clowns across the stage as we witness the slave perversely worming his way deeper into the affections of his master.
The threatening Turkish armada is led by Calymath, ably played by Marcus Griffith in true swashbuckling form. As the intrigues of the plot, riddled with treachery and deceit lead to an inevitably tragic conclusion, we witness the duplicity of inter-faith conflict alongside an even more painful intra-familial despair as Barabas and daughter Abigail, (sensitively and spiritedly played by Catrin Stewart) both come to despise the other, with fatal consequences.
Steven Pacey’s Ferneze displays a recognisable statesman-like duplicity, as he schemes both with and against Barabas to defend his nation, whilst we catch but a glimpse of Marlowe endorsing his own personal inclinations when Simon Hedger’s Merchant says ‘I count religion but a childish toy’.
In a production that thrills, Jonathan Girling’s music enhances proceedings. His introduction however of a 19th century klezmer sound, whose history derives from the European Ashkenazi Jewish community whereas Malta’s Jews hailed from a distinctly Mediterranean Sephardi heritage, does seem a little incongruous.
But elsewhere the detail invested in The Jew Of Malta is meticulous, manifest in the clarity, diction and playing of the company for whom neither a syllable nor glance is wasted. Bringing their world class style to this Elizabethan classic, with Lily Arnold’s plainest of sets proving a foil to magnificent costumes, The RSC again deliver magnificent theatre.
In repertory until 29th August 2015
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