Game of Thrones celebrity casting can’t save a misconceived, vulgarly populist updating of this Renaissance classic.
While many of the performances listed took place long before Love London Love Culture was even thought of, watching Shakespeare Live! on the BBC last night brought to mind some of the best Shakespeare performances that this particular writer has seen…
Everything is switched around in this clever production of Shakespeare’s play, which puts the women in charge and the men needing to be tamed…
Talawa Theatre Company has been making theatre since 1986 and to mark their 30th anniversary year, and to commemorate 400 years since Shakespeare’s death artistic director Michael Buffong returns to the play he first directed in 1994, King Lear. In this co-production between Talawa Theatre, Manchester’s Royal Exchange and Birmingham Rep, Don Warrington steps into the royal breaches and takes on the title role.
The question isn’t to be or not to be, but rather is this different version of Hamlet Shakespeare’s Hamlet?
Viola is in love with Duke Orsino who is in love with Countess Olivia who in turn is in love with Viola dressed up as a man servant of Duke Orsino. A pretty straight forward plot that is simply told in the atmospheric surroundings of the French Protestant church in Soho Square.
Directed by Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin, this production – starring John Heffernan and Anna Maxwell Martin – is startlingly different to any other versions of Macbeth I have seen before. It’s a highly visual production which explores main themes of Macbeth’s breakdown and the supernatural through a fusion of Shakespeare’s original words and stunning choreography.
Richard II is one of Shakespeare’s great treats and, for
this writer at least, contains some of his most beautiful writing as well as
one of the more fascinating storylines in the canon. Somehow though, this is my
first experience of seeing it performed live. I’ll confess to having trouble picturing
Charles Edwards as Richard. I’ve always enjoyed Edwards’ work but this is
a little bit different to his recent roles.
Thankfully I was wrong (and not for the first time) to be
concerned! We’ve seen petulant Richards, childlike Richards and recently Ben
Whishaw’s ethereal monarch in the BBC’s majestic Hollow Crown series. Edwards gives us Richard the bon-vivant, letting
loose with sardonic asides that his pandering courtiers fall over themselves to
laugh at. He’s lost in his own world and thinks himself hilarious, making his
eventual fall all the more harrowing. When he realises he is lost and bids his
followers sit with him and tell stories of former kings it’s harrowing,
especially when, with a lost look on his face he reaches out and clutches the
hand of an audience member.
who shone earlier this year as Gratiano in Shakespeare’s
Globe’s Merchant of Venice is excellent as Bolingbroke, merciless in the
face of those who wrong him he nevertheless seems reluctant to take power until
he realises it is his only choice.
Director Simon Godwin
balances the humour and the sorrow well, taking pains to ensure that the
funnier lines hit home. Sadly the dramatic moments fall a little flat as
several of the cast seem hell bent on reducing the running time by gabbling
through their lines as if they might miss their train home. The exception is William Gaunt who delivers his namesake’s
fervent elegy to his homeland as a masterclass in understated grief.
Gaunt’s passionate dismissal of Richard “Live in thy shame, but die not
shame with thee!”
cuts like a knife and still rings in the ears when the former sovereign meets
Not only can Shakespeare be considered to be England’s greatest playwright, he is probably the most prolific when it comes to performances of his work. The plays are amazingly flexible in the many ways they can be stage and the latest production of “The Tempest” at The Hope Theatre by the Thick as Thieves Production company is a lovely case in point.
Measure For Measure is one of Shakespeare’s problematic
plays, a comedy that can be difficult to come to terms with for modern
audiences. The mix of bawdy banter and religious fervour is a heady one and Dominic Dromgoole, in his last
directorial outing as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s
Globe, gives both sides of the argument equal time.
By now I’ve grown to expect an interesting preamble whenever
I see a show at the Globe, from the decadence of Cleopatra’s court to the
capering of a Dromio in Comedy of Errors it pays to be in your seat early… Even
I wasn’t prepared for the anarchy of bawds and whores cooing at the audience
and dragging punters into their houses while the constable gives chase. Its
choreographed anarchy and brilliant fun!
At it’s heart the
show swings around Angelo and Isabella, the former a pious lord who rules
Vienna in the stead of the departed Duke, the latter the sister of a man
sentenced to death for impregnating a young lady who was not his wife. Kurt Egyiawan makes for a particularly
rigid Angelo and the scene where he fails to control his lust for Isabella’s
purity is beautifully played. Mariah
Gale’s Isabella is a beacon of wholesome devotion, save for the moment her
brother begs her to offer up her body in payment for his freedom and she lashes
out at his face. She gives her character layers of conflicting feelings, though
sometimes her voice fails to carry nearly as well as her castmates.
The drama of Isabella’s dilemma is a stark contrast to the
slapstick comedy elsewhere as prostitutes and men of ill repute are rounded up
by the dim-witted Constable Elbow. The two tones give the play some much needed
levity but occasionally threaten to overwhelm the seriousness of the story.
The whole is orchestrated with aplomb by Dominic Rowan’s fast-talking Duke.
Often portrayed as a wise and benevolent benefactor, Rowan gives him the air of
a man making it up as he goes along and never truly sure of what will happen
next. A refreshing take.
As Dromgoole’s globe farewell this is perhaps a lacklustre
choice, but not for want of some great ensemble work. Even in baking heat the
cast were a blur of motion – not easy in woollen costumes that had already been
worn once that day I’m sure!