World premieres in Chichester Festival Theatre’s Festival 2020 include first plays by Steven Moffat and Kate Mosse and new work by Suhayla El-Bushra and Christopher Shinn.
Ian McKellen reprises his role as King Lear in the West End transfer of Jonathan Munby’s production which has arrived in London following its run in Chichester. Here’s what the critics have been making of it…
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For this third time in the role we are told that Ian McKellen deliberately chose to play it in the intimacy of Chichester’s Minerva last year; here in the West End a reconfiguring of the Duke of York’s maintains much of that atmosphere.
Stand-out performances in any era are often only judged so in retrospect and modern theatre offers much that will be remembered. But once in a while, you know you’re in the presence of greatness, and Ian McKellen’s King Lear will be talked about for years to come.
William Wycherley’s Restoration romp, The Country Wife, has been given a makeover in Jonathan Munby’s modern, monochrome production at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre.
Jonathan Munby’s production, starring Suranne Jones, has officially opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, running until 5 May 2018. Here’s what critics have had to say about it…
This Frozen is a dark story, a revival of Bryony Lavery’s 1998 award-winning play about a child killer — definitely no singing, no dancing, no hummable tunes, but it does have an outstanding cast: Suranne Jones, Jason Watkins and Nina Sosanya.
Chichester Festival Theatre’s Festival 2018 season, announced today, will feature new plays by Laura Wade and Charlotte Jones and revivals of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen and musical Flowers For Mrs Harris.
Chichester Festival Theatre’s critically-acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, starring Ian McKellen, will receive a West End transfer, running at the Duke of York’s Theatre for 100 performances only from 11 July to 3 November 2018.
King Lear is the jewel in the crown of Daniel Evans’ opening year as Chichester’s Artistic Director. Ian McKellen is every inch a king in Jonathan Munby’s production that is currently playing a short, sold-out season
Ian McKellen immediately makes the intimate space his own, the dialogue almost conversational and his Lear a warm-hearted soul with a twinkle in his eye. This is surely as good as it gets, an actor using every bit of knowledge he has acquired in a storied career to make his role feel so natural.
Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster, Scott & Bailey) and Jason Watkins (Line of Duty, Taboo, W1A) will star in a new production of Frozen, Bryony Lavery’s award-winning 1998 play.
Daniel Evans and Rachel Tackley announce Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2017 summer festival season – the first under their leadership as Artistic Director and Executive Director. Highlights include: Chichester’s Festival 2017 embraces classic and contemporary plays and musicals, with headline actors including Sharon D. Clarke, Omid Djalili, Marcia Gay Harden, Ian McKellen, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Brian J. Smith and Richard Wilson New …
Shakespeare’s Globe has announced casting for All the Angels – Handel and the First Messiah, written by Nick Drake and directed by Jonathan Munby. The production runs in the Globe’s indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 6 December 2016 to Sunday 12 February 2017, with a press night on 8 December.
Shakespeare’s Globe has announced Artistic Director Emma Rice’s first Winter season in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. The Wonder Noir Winter season will run at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from the 26th October until the 16th April 2017.
Shakespeare’s Globe is delighted to announce Emma Rice’s inaugural season as Artistic Director. The 2016 Wonder Season will open with A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Saturday 30 April, followed by The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, 946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips and Imogen. Jonathan Munby’s The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce, will open at the Liverpool Playhouse, …
Handel’s Messiah is a phenomenon: written in three weeks in the composer’s most disappointed phase, to this day it plays as sublimely as a chamber piece with eight singers as with the four thousand of us who annually sing it at the Royal Albert Hall in The Really Big Chorus (I operate as a semi-competent alto). It gets treated with high professionalism or as a parish singalong, truncated at the Alleluia Chorus or recorded as a “best-of” with some of the most beautiful moments missing, is done with heavy Victorian pomposity or bright original instruments, speeded up and slowed down. Nothing dents its shine.
You could be forgiven, if you didn’t know The Merchant of Venice well, for believing it to be a tragedy and more so for thinking Shylock is one of Shakespeare’s most caricature villains. Thankfully, Jonathan Munby directs with flair, amping up the comedy without losing even a hint of pathos in what may already be the highlight of Shakespeare’s Globe’s summer season.
Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Written by William ShakespeareDirected by Jonathan Munby
Phoebe Pryce and Jonathan Pryce
Jonathan Munby’s production of The Merchant Of Venice at Shakespeare’s Globe is likely to prove a long remembered classic. The staging offers an interaction with the groundlings that defines the raison d’être of this remarkable venue and with some of the Bard’s finest verse bestowed upon both Shylock and Portia, Jonathan Pryce and Rachel Pickup respectively provide a masterclass in English poetry.
It can be all too easy to forget that The Merchant Of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s comedies. Munby’s production however makes much wonderfully timed merriment, with Stefan Adegbola’s Launcelot Gobbo putting on a class act that is as much Vaudeville stand up as it is classic Elizabethan drama. Elsewhere, David Sturzaker’s drunken Gratiano and Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Nerissa make for excellent comic foils.
The design of both costume and stage is gorgeous. The dress is of the period, with the Venetian masked Carnevale a prominent theme. Designer Mike Britton’s Belmont is suggested magnificently by drapes of burnished gauze that billow in the Southwark breeze, cleverly catching the light and evoking a modest understatement to the wealth of Portia’s estate
So much for the hilarity, there is heartbreak too – and in the most complex of parent-child dilemmas, Pryce wrestles with the demands of his Jewish faith as daughter Jessica spurns both father and tradition for her gentile lover, Ben Lamb’s Lorenzo. That Jessica is played by Pryce’s real life daughter Phoebe (who eschewing any whiff of nepotistic stunt-casting, more than earns her stripes) only adds to the moments of emotional devastation hurled at us.
Much too is made of Bassanio’s bisexuality as Daniel Lapaine and Dominic Mafham’s Antonio the eponymous Merchant, make frequent references to their past love. Away from the comedy again, Munby spotlights Portia’s anguish as she comes to realise her new husband’s sexual history, making for another neat and credible shot of pain.
Throughout, Munby’s work is nothing short of visionary. His Princes of Morroco and Arragon (Scott Karim and Christopher Logan respectively) are stereotyped caricatures – indeed Karim’s Arabic creation could be straight out of Disney’s Aladdin. But Munby knows just when to ease off too. Whilst his Princes may be buffoons, there is no hint of grotesque Jewish caricature to Shylock, with the director letting the evil of the play’s prejudice speak for itself.
Whilst Shakespeare’s original English text is respected, Munby takes brave linguistic licence elsewhere. Shylock and Jessica converse in Yiddish behind closed doors, whilst a devastating epilogue sees the now proselytised Jewess lament in Hebrew, whilst her father is subject to the full baptismal onslaught of a Catholic Latin liturgy.
But the heartbeat of this production lies in its devastating depiction of racist hatred. Shylock speaks of having been and is, spat upon. The courtroom scene is imbued with a lynch-mob menace that bays for the Jew’s blood. Whilst his desire for murderous vengeance can never be condoned, this production more than most, speaks clearly of the lifetime of abuse that the old money-lender has endured.
In what is likely to prove one of the capital’s stand out Shakespeare plays of the year, Pryce’s performance dominates and devastates. We share the pain of his yelp as his skullcap is brutally removed, realising more than anything else that the prejudices of 17th century Venice were barely different from those of Hitler’s Berlin in the 1930s. And when we read today of the barbarity wreaked upon Iraq’s Yazidis and upon many of Africa’s Christian communities, we can only weep at Shakespeare’s timeless wisdom.
Runs until 7th June
Image by Manuel Harlan