Tag Archives: Richard Rees

Snow in Midsummer, and more uncanny shifts in place and time

Based on a traditional Chinese drama from the 13th century, Snow in Midsummer draws an eerie, piercing picture of a community where a sense of being displaced seems to be looming under everybody’s surface.

Katie Leung as Dou Yi

Katie Leung as Dou Yi

Displaced in culture, where westernised consumerism clashes with ancient superstitions, in climate, where the earth has become inhabitable by curse as much as by industrialisation, in love, where there’s precious little to hold on to, even in life, where the border between ghosts and the living is oh so fluid.

A breath stopping production, serious, heart-breaking, with thrown in quips of humour, just before realisation hurts too much.

Katie Leung as Dou Yi

Katie Leung as Dou Yi

 

 

 

Katie Leung is Dou Yi, a young widow who is executed for a murder she didn’t commit. She plays her part with incredible strength, control and tenderness, encompassing a range of genres including horror and operatic pathos.
Displaced in time and life, she puts her quest for justice in the hands of Tianyun, a businesswoman, and her young daughter Fei-Fei.

Wendy Kweh as Tianyun, Emily Dao as Fei-Fei

Wendy Kweh as Tianyun, Emily Dao as Fei-Fei

Wendy Kweh delicately owns Tianyun’s hard-won balance between leadership attitude and vulnerability from suppressed emotions.

7-year-old Fei-Fei is alternatingly played by 3 extremely talented young girls. Certainly Emily Dao, whose turn it was on press night, excels in professional brilliance.

Colin Ryan as Handsome Zhang, Andrew Leung as Rocket Wu + workers

Colin Ryan as Handsome Zhang, Andrew Leung as Rocket Wu + workers

The character of Handsome Zhang, son of Master Zhang, a local industrialist, is brought into remarkable light by Colin Ryan. Handsome’s struggle against his father’s expectations, his desperate fight for his love … this fine young actor owns the stage with his persona and he makes this difficult character immensely human.

In the parts of Master Zhang and Doctor Lu, Daniel York shows great versatility.

Amongst the female support acts, Jacqueline Chan leaves a deep impression as blind Mother Cai. Sarah Lam, as Handsome’s former wet nurse, builds up a clouded presence.

Snow in Midsummer is the result of the RSC’s Chinese Translations Project to support cultural exchange, astutely re-imagined by playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig.
Director Justin Audibert, yet again, succeeds in bringing together age old tradition and a supposedly “other” culture with universal and modern human experience. Masterly.

Much kudos, too, to Ruth Chan for incredible music and Anna Watson’s ingenious lighting.

Snow in Midsummer is performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre from 23/02/2017 to 25/02/2017

Katie Leung              – Dou Yi
Jacqueline Chan       – Mother Cai
Andrew Koji              – Worker Fang
Wendy Kweh            – Tianyun
Sarah Lam                 – Madam Wong
Andrew Leung          – Rocket Wu
Jonathan Raggett     – Worker Zou
Richard Rees             – Worker Huang
Colin Ryan                 – Handsome Zhang
Lucy Sheen                – Worker Chen
Kevin Shen                 – Officer
Daniel York                – Master Zhang
–  Doctor Lu
Emily Dao
Zoe Lim
Sophie Wong            – Fei-Fei

Justin Audibert                     – Director
Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig    – Writer
Ruth Chan                              – Composer
Anna Watson                        – Lighting

Photos by Ikin Yum (c) RSC

Loves’s Sacrifice, the power of unrequited love

RSC Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 11th April – 24th June, 2015

As with many other renaissance plays, at first sight, the plot of this rarely performed play by John Ford looks a bit far-fetched.
A recently married Duke whose best friend is in love with the Duke’s young wife, the Duke’s widowed sister who fancies the best friend who…
A courtier who fancies the widow who fancies… A womanizer who gets two ladies in waiting and one other lady pregnant and an ageing beau who also shows an interest in the Duke’s sister. Sigh, one is disposed to fear the worst.

However, the surprise couldn’t be more pleasant and entertaining and 1633 meets the 21st century seemingly effortless. Matthew Dunster’s production vibrates with intensity and humour and it plays upon so many emotional experiences of timeless human nature that lastly, it is only the splendorous costumes supervised by Sabine Lemaître that position the story in the 17th century. Anna Fleischle designed a fascinating set, accentuating the plot by intriguingly backlit arches and space creating video projections.

Love's Sacrifice

Matthew Needham as Duke of Pavy

Amazing in his part as the Duke of Pavy, Matthew Needham initially behaves youthfully impulsive, though comprehensible, but bit by bit he lets transpire that his fits of enthusiasm are a weak cover for his rather unhinged personality.
In the character of his sister Fiormonda, Beth Cordingly represents his female equivalent. Her portrayal makes it crystal clear that through her permanently vexed ego, Fiormonda has no chance to make positive decisions.

Love's Sacrifice

Matthew Needham and Catrin Stewart as Duke and Duchess of Pavy

Jonathan McGuiness displays D’Avolos, the Duke’s secretary, as a particularly interesting personality. One wonders whether he has a personal weak spot for Fiormonda or just a lot of empathy with her situation. He is a spin doctor who is convinced that he is pulling all strings for the greater good and at the end is honestly surprised that he is held responsible for the tragic turn of events.

The young Duchess Bianca, that’s Catrin Stewart showing her as someone who is honestly confused. There is even a slight reminiscence of Sissy, the poor Austrian Empress, about her.

Jamie Thomas King as Fernando

Jamie Thomas King as Fernando

Her admirer Fernando (Jamie Thomas King), the Duke’s friend, is torn between reason and emotion and ends up squashed between these fronts.

Matthew Kelly and Colin Ryan as Mauruccio and Giacopo

Matthew Kelly and Colin Ryan as Mauruccio and Giacopo

A highly touchingly comical part is Mauruccio, the ageing society junkie, played by Matthew Kelly. As his servant Giacapo, Colin Ryan amazes with a massive show stealing capacity.

Not least through the breathtaking musical scenery written by Alexander Balanescu and a fabulous movement display by Charlotte Broom, this production is one to remember fondly.

Photos by Helen Maybanks ©RSC

 

Andy Apollo – Ferentes
Sheila Atim – Julia
Guy Burgess – Nibrassa
Beth Cordingly – Fiormonda
Geoffrey Freshwater – Abbot
Marcus Griffiths – Roseilli
Rhiannon Handy – Colona
Simon Hedger  – Guard
Julian Hoult – Attendant
Matthew Kelly – Mauruccio
Jamie Thomas King – Fernando
Jonathan McGuinness – D’Avolos
Annette McLaughlin – Morona
Matthew Needham  – Duke of Pavy
Richard Rees  – Petruchio
Colin Ryan – Giacapo
Nav Sidhu – Attendant
Catrin Stewart – Bianca
Gabby Wong – Attendant
Director – Matthew Dunster
Designer – Anna Fleischle
Lighting – Lee Curran
Music – Alexander Balanescu
Sound – Ian Dickinson
Movement – Charlotte Broom
Video – Dick Straker

The Jew of Malta – a microcosmos of human misbehaviour

Eerily topical, Christopher Marlowe’s bold stab at the dirty sides of all three Abrahamic religions found a thrilling interpretation by Justin Audibert and his ingenious ensemble on the RSC’s Swan stage.The Jew of Malta production photos_ 2015_Photo by Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC_JEW 0149

Barabas, the Jew, has built up considerable wealth, when Malta has to pay tribute to the Turks, and the Christian Governor requisitions Jewish property to cover these costs. Not willing to give up half of his possessions, Barabas protests, whereupon he is beaten, spat at and robbed of everything. The Jew of Malta production photos_ 2015_Photo by Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC_JEW 0280
In his revenge, he uses his daughter’s charms against the Governor’s son and Don Mathias, her other suitor, who kill each other. The Jew of Malta production photos_ 2015_Photo by Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC_JEW 0335He then employs his slave Ithamore in a poisoning plot against the nuns who converted his house into a convent, and his daughter, who sought refuge with them. Next, they murder one of the two greedy, lecherous friars and frame the other for it.The Jew of Malta production photos_ 2015_Photo by Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC_JEW 0168

Barabas opens the city gates to the Turks for invasion and even, for a short while, becomes Governor of Malta. Betrayed by his slave, just before he, too, dies from Barabas’s poisoning, the Jew of Malta is arrested and executed.

It has often been tried to label this play as anti-Semitic. That can hardly be true. There is no sympathy for Christian or Muslim behaviour, either. The Machiavelli character, who in the prologue says: “I count religion but a childish toy.” remains the only honest person.

An unforgiving, yet again and again hilarious storyline, wrapped in mesmerizing music by Jonathan Girling for which a special mention is owed to Adam Cross’s striking Klezmer clarinet and Anna Bolton’s beautiful singing.

The Jew of Malta production photos_ 2015_Photo by Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC_Malta_3Jasper Britton has the Jew where Marlowe must have wanted him: vulnerable, detached, cheeky. He is complemented by Catrin Stewart playing Abigail, the Jew’s kind, yet fatefully naïve daughter. Lanre Malaolu gives Ithamore, the slave, a level of such tragic neglect that he becomes the saddest character of the play.

Ferneze, Governor of Malta, that is Steven Pacey, who does a brilliant job with his portrayal of this blinkered Christian power player.
Sheer joy comes with the two “religious caterpillars”, Friar Barnadine (Geoffrey Freshwater) and Friar Jacomo (Matthew Kelly), who in their avaricious lecherousness form a very special clownesque pair.

A breathtaking, enthralling and throughout de-blinkering production which, in the 21st century, just couldn’t be more up-to-date.

18 March to 8 September 2015, Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon

Photos: Ellie Kurttz © RSC

 

Andy Apollo – Don Lodowick
Sheila Atim – Attendant
Jasper Britton (pictured) – Barabas
Guy Burgess – First Knight
Beth Cordingly – Bellamira
Geoffrey Freshwater – Friar Barnadine
Marcus Griffiths – Calymath
Rhiannon Handy – Attendant
Simon Hedger – Merchant
Julian Hoult – Merchant
Matthew Kelly – Friar Jacomo
Annette McLaughlin – Katherine
Lanre Malaolu – Ithamore
Matthew Needham – Pilia-Borza
Steven Pacey – Ferneze
Richard Rees – Martin del Bosco
Colin Ryan – Don Mathias
Nav Sidhu – Callapine
Catrin Stewart – Abigail
Gabby Wong – Abbess

Director – Justin Audibert
Designer – Lily Arnold
Lighting – Oliver Fenwick
Music – Jonathan Girling
Sound – Claire Windsor
Movement – Lucy Cullingford
Fights – Kev McCurdy