Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

Much Ado Al Fresco

Cometh June, cometh free theatre at the Dell, Stratford-upon-Avon’s outdoor stage at the upper end of Waterside, by the river.

The opening show, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, was presented by a clever mix of RSC staff amateur actors, Shakespeare Institute students and current RSC actors, and directed by James Corrigan – with just one daring week of rehearsals.

Lucy Phelps as Beatrice

A cheerful, large audience came together, picnic blankets, matching hampers, raincoats, brollies, kids, dogs and all.

The play was everywhere, in the midst of the audience, under and on trees, vibrating all around. What joy, dynamic, what a sparkling display of fun ideas. Brilliant work by amateurs and pros alike.

Rhys Bevan as Benedick

Particularly thrilling: Lucy Phelps as Beatrice and Rhys Bevan as Benedick, perfect chemistry and glorious banter.
A female Leonato, Samantha Powell, harvested extra cheers when well-known male lines tipped into hilariousness: “I think this is your daughter?”  “Her father hath many times told me so.”
Also utterly believable in a female version: Don John, the evil brother, played by Grace Martin.

The watch, by Naomi Jacobs, Andrea Moon, Leon Peckson, George Sothcott and Annie Wilson delivered their play-within-the-play as a serious laugh muscle exercise.

With prescience set up under a well leafy roof, a live band accompanied the show, inciting little jigs here and there.

Under the usual conditions of an English summer, two short showers couldn’t be danced away entirely, but the well-prepared audience was not for turning away from this delightful production.

 

 

Well done, everybody.

 

 

 

The Dell season:
https://www.rsc.org.uk/events/the-dell

Emotional roller coaster in a stately home – Love’s Labour’s Won or Much Ado About Nothing

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 03/10/2014 – 14/3/2015 Even if weren’t true, it is a wonderful idea: Shakespeare’s Much Ado as the sequel to the unsolved troubles of Love’s Labour’s Lost. The characters fit almost seamlessly, even if the names vary, and this is just the continuation one was longing for after enjoying the “first episode”. The consistency in ensemble, stage design and music rounds director Chris Luscombe’s tandem production into a bubbly romantic complete story. At the end of Love’s Labour’s Lost, the men went to fight in the First World War, in this, better known play, they have returned and they are trying to rebuild their lives.

Michelle Terry (Beatrice) and Edward Bennett (Benedick)

Michelle Terry (Beatrice) and Edward Bennett (Benedick)

We find them at Christmas time 1918. Beatrice (Michelle Terry) has been through tough times as a VAD nurse and she is trying to come to terms with new realities through increased snappiness, whilst her somewhat more delicate cousin Hero (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) only too happily seeks refuge in the arms of Count Claudio (Tunji Kasim). Claudio is, for today’s audiences, a character that is rather difficult to understand, but Tunji

Tunji Kasim (Claudio) and Edward Bennett (Benedick)

Tunji Kasim (Claudio) and Edward Bennett (Benedick)

Kasim draws him so boyishly cute when it comes to romance, defencelessly aggressive in the play’s cruel scenes and thoroughly shaken by fate, that he becomes recognisable in the 21st century. Edward Bennet, who previously conquered the audience’s hearts as Berowne, now creates an unforgettably wonderful confused Benedick: His eavesdropping scene from behind the giant Christmas tree is a safe bet to cause sore laugh muscles.

Edward Bennett (Benedick) and Harry Waller (Balthasar)

Edward Bennett (Benedick) and Harry Waller (Balthasar)

Sam Alexander, as Benedicks frustrated brother, the sinister Don John, skilfully drags the emotional waves back down to shivering suspense. However, the roller coaster effect is guaranteed: Shakespeare’s play-within-the play is gloried in to ecstasy point, the scenes with the night watch and the police station might harm the odd eye make-up. The innumerable wonderful little ideas keep generating tumultuous slapstick fun. Nick Haverson here plays the part of the yattering Constable Dogberry and he just accumulates highlight on highlight. With hilarious officious pomposity and lovingly, yet screamingly funny vulnerability, complete with a tragicomic tic, he controls the audience relentlessly – absolute master class.

(At front) Tunji Kasim (Claudio), Jamie Newall in centre (Friar Francis) and Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Hero), with company

(At front) Tunji Kasim (Claudio), Jamie Newall in centre (Friar Francis) and Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Hero), with company

Many of the smaller parts shine through similar attention to detail. David Horovitch is a destroyed father-of-the-bride Leonato, Jamie Newall a fine, warm-hearted Friar Francis, Emma Manton and Frances McNamee delightfully funny ladies-in-waiting, moreover Chris Nayak as the dubious servant Borachio (fabulous RSC debut), the wonderful Chris McCalphy as Sexton, Peter McGovern, Oliver Lynes and Roderick Smith as the other watchmen and, and, and … great ensemble theatre. Balthasar, Antonio’s son, does not contribute much to the plot, Harry Waller, however, is more than that. In this part, he assumes a major musical function, singing and playing the piano.

Edward Bennett (Benedick) and Michelle Terry (Beatrice) – in centre, with company

Edward Bennett (Benedick) and Michelle Terry (Beatrice) – in centre, with company

Nigel Hess’s wonderful music weaves through the entire play and is sure to remain a lasting memory. Set design: Simon Higlett. Best watched in sequence, but also individually a treat! Photos by Manuel Harlan © RSC   also posted in German under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/gefuhlsachterbahn-im-herrenhaus-loves-labours-won-gewonnene-liebesmuh-oder-viel-larm-um-nichts/

Dance on the edge of the abyss in Love’s Labour’s Lost

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 23/09/2014 to 14/03/2015
A carefree world – Four young men of noble birth, spared by all menial worries, spend their days training their quick wit and excelling in puns and rhetoric. They plan gaining a better understanding of the world by withdrawing from it.

L-R – Edward Bennett (Berowne),  Sam Alexander (King of Navarre), William Belchambers (Longaville)

L-R – Edward Bennett (Berowne), Sam Alexander (King of Navarre), William Belchambers (Longaville)

An oath of asceticism is sworn for 3 years: no pleasures and definitely no women within the castle.
Shortly afterwards, four equally well born ladies make their appearance. Although they are being lodged at a certain distance, threads soon start spinning by themselves.

In this winter season, for the first time, the RSC shows Love’s Labour’s Lost in direct combination with Love’s Labour’s Won, long considered to be one of Shakespeare’s lost plays, nowadays, however, often assumed to be in fact the play Much Ado About Nothing. This tandem production creates a time frame around the days immediately before and after the First World War.
The amazing set, designed by Simon Higlett, transports the audience to the stately manor of Charlecote near Stratford, a place well known to William Shakespeare, as it was here that he was caught poaching.
The King of Navarre, played by Sam Alexander as a man of disarming naivety, is not a person to have the last word, neither with his entourage nor even for himself.
Amongst his three friends, Berowne is the only one seemingly able to use common sense, however, he displays a hilarious lack of emotional intelligence. Edward Bennet owns his character. He makes him an irresistible cynic who virtually calls for a controlling female hand.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-49

Edward Bennett (Berowne)

Longaville (William Belchambers) and Dumaine (Tunji Kasim), just as the other two, stumble into the pitfalls of their own feelings. The four protagonists create an unbeatable highlight the turret scene, a firework display of comedy in which they make a last attempt at dissembling their enamouredness.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-184

Michelle Terry (Rosaline)

Amongst the ladies, Leah Whitaker represents the Princess of France as a distinctly more mature and self-confident person than her male counterpart.
Michelle Terry, as Rosaline and thus Berowne’s flirt partner, keeps sparks flying while generating magnetism. We are allowed a first glimpse at the traits that will return with Beatrice in the “sequel”, Love’s Labour’s Won.

Katherine (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) and Mary (Frances McNamee), the other two ladies-in-waiting, rob the gentlemen’s senses with ease.
The ladies are accompanied by Lord Boyet, the Princess’s equerry (Jamie Newall, what an extraordinary voice!) and Marcadé (Roderick Smith).

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-141

L-R – Frances McNamee (Maria), Michelle Terry (Rosaline), Jamie Newall (Boyet), Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Katharine)

At less gentrified level, too, life is bubbling. Don Armado (John Hodkinson), a Spanish guest, competes with Costard, the gardener (hilariously funny: Nick Haverson) for the dairy maid Jacquenetta’s (Emma Manton, fantastic, a hothouse of energy and wit) favours.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-74

L-R – Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Katharine), Michelle Terry (Rosaline), Frances McNamee (Maria)

David Horovitch, Thomas Wheatley and Chris McCalphy provide the villagers’ comedy contributions.
As perhaps the only fully sane person of the manor, Moth, the hall boy, Peter McGovern has a smaller part, but in this production he is the one who shapes the musical side by his singing, solo and leading the ensemble’s songs.
Oh the music: Nigel Hess composed a dazzling romantic musical accompaniment to the play, performed live and conducted by John Woolf, underlining and highlighting the atmosphere, a special treat in itself.
Directed by Christopher Luscombe.
A delight not to be missed!

Photos by Manuel Harlan © RSC

also posted in German under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/spielerische-gefuhlszweifler-in-loves-labours-lost-verlorene-liebesmuh/

Antony & Cleopatra – Indulgence is enemy to career

An RSC cooperation with The Public Theatre, New York, and Gable Theatre, Miami
Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon – directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra), Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Chivas Michael (Mardian/Soothsayer/Eros), Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras)

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra), Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Chivas Michael (Mardian/Soothsayer/Eros), Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras)

Mark Antony, the commander in chief who forgets his martial agenda over the sweet erotic springes of the tawny-skinned Queen Cleopatra, and in the process loses his part of the empire, his career and his life – this historical topic sounds like a reversal of the legends in which people succumb to the realm of fairies; here it is harsh reality prevailing.
Octavius, later to become God Emperor Augustus (btw, the month of August obtained its name just because of it being the month of the conquest of Egypt), then a not very promising 20-year-old heir to Julius Cesar, proves to be a statesman after all and wins the day and the Empire.

Tarell Alvin McCraney edited Shakespeare’s play about the fall of the Egyptian Empire and relocated it to a colonial, Caribbean setting, with the Romans taking the part of Napoleonic occupying forces on the island of Saint Domingue, today’s Haiti.
Cleopatra, played in an intoxicatingly sensual and impulsive manner by Joaquina Kalukango, is caught in a mutual spell with Jonathan Cake as Mark Antony, utterly convincing, quite dishy, and the archetype of a warrior/business man going astray. “She makes hungry where most she satisfies” (A&C, 2.2) – no doubt about that. But she, too, neglects her political day job.

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras) Centre – Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra)

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras)
Centre – Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra)

Amongst the characters at Cleopatra’s court Chivas Michael deserves to be highlighted. As a spooky soothsayer he forecasts doom and as a eunuch, he contributes a series of wonderful funny moments, moreover, with his hypnotizing counter-tenor voice, he adds to the play’s intriguing atmosphere.
Sarah Niles as Charmian, lady-in-waiting to Cleopatra, also acts as warrior Menas and her colleague Iras, Charise Castro Smith, is also Octavia, Antony’s down-to-earth second wife. The profound difference in parts is easily mastered by both.

Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras), Samuel Collings (Octavius Caesar)

Charise Castro Smith (Octavia/Iras), Samuel Collings (Octavius Caesar)

Samuel Collings portraying the underestimated Octavius/Napoleon displays a fantastically low key characterization in which the sizzling wrath of a geek is just about perceivable, right from the beginning.

Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus)

Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus)

 

 

 

Absolutely great: Chukwudi Iwuji, playing the part of Antony’s follower Enobarbus, he also offers semi-detached comments on the events, and, similar to the chorus in antique tragedies, he pronounces the audience’s germinating doubts and takes their eyes away from the all to obvious.

The music by Michael Thurber, with Andy Waterson on the guitar, Mat Heighwey on the bass and Akintayo Akinbode, as Music Director and on percussion, creates an ongoing spell of sensuality and tragedy.

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Samuel Collings (Octavius Caesar)

L-R – Sarah Niles (Charmian/Menas), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus), Jonathan Cake (Mark Antony), Samuel Collings (Octavius Caesar)

Last but not least, an extra dose of praise to Gelan Lambert, responsible for movement, who with the Circle of Thirds, a drunk dance of the triumvirate Antony, Octavius and Pompey, created one of the most poignant (choreo-)graphic demonstrations of this moment in Roman history I have ever come across.

In the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until 30 November 2013, in Spring 2014 in New York and Miami.

Photos by Hugo Glendinning

This blog post has also been published in German under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/antony-cleopatra-genuss-ist-karrierefeindlich/

All’s Well That Ends Well – Really?

“All’s Well That Ends Well”, an RSC production at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle begin November

What on earth was Shakespeare thinking, when he took the story about a tricked marriage from Boccaccio’s Decamerone and put it into his incomparable verse?
You might wonder whether he himself had doubts if people were going to buy the plot, when listening to Helena, the female lead, explaining her hidden feelings.

Joanna Horton (Helena)

Joanna Horton (Helena)

There is no envying Joanna Horton for this scene. Helena seems to rather want to be hiding behind the Countess’s (Charlotte Cornwell), her foster mother’s, potted plants, and yet she has to argue her case before the world, why she wants this particular man who is such a bad match for her. You’d like to tell her there are other mothers with interesting sons.
Helena loves her ward’s son, Bertram, who isn’t interested in her.

Alex Waldmann (Bertram), Charlotte Cornwell (Countess of Rossillion)

Alex Waldmann (Bertram), Charlotte Cornwell (Countess of Rossillion)

Alex Waldmann as Bertram, manages to look not a day older than 16, when, as a happy puppy, he is frolicking around with his mates, doesn’t know how to react to his father’s death, and casually moves to the King’s court.

Now Helena takes an initiative that seems a big leap for her character; upon hearing about the King’s (Greg Hicks) illness, she understands that she will be in a position to claim a favour, if she cures him.

Greg Hicks (King of France)

Greg Hicks (King of France)

Greg Hicks’ part is intriguing and has its strongest moments in the King’s illness. When recovered, well, he’s kingly. Greg Hicks is good at that.

When Helena’s plan works out, due to a miraculous medicine, and she is married to the puppy, the young and, understandably, rather frustrated husband, escapes to the wars, the bigger boys’ playground.
Impressively staged: Bertram’s changing into the uniform and the magnificently reduced fight scenes.

Alex Waldmann (Bertram) - raised up, Jonathan Slinger (Parolles) – in background, Daniel Easton, Michael Grady-Hall, Chris Jared, Samuel Taylor (Soldiers)

Alex Waldmann (Bertram) – raised up, Jonathan Slinger (Parolles) – in background, Daniel Easton, Michael Grady-Hall, Chris Jared, Samuel Taylor (Soldiers)

Helena, now deeply frustrated herself, follows Bertram to the city of his garrison, disguised as a pilgrim. Young Diana (fabulous: Natalie Klamar), to whom Bertram has been making advances, plots with Helena, invites him to her bedroom, where Helena, in darkness and without speaking, succeeds in getting pregnant by him.

This second ambush finally has Bertram defeated, he promises eternal love.
A likely result … Shakespeare himself seems happy to sow some doubt regarding lasting success. The King closes his part with the words:
“All yet seems well; and if it end so meet,
The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet.” 5.3.43

In an era when marriages for romantic reasons were far from being standard, these doubts must have worked in an even more conniving way than they do today. It was a difficult source material for a difficult comedy. Comedy? Truly Shakespeare.

This is a play that isn’t staged very often, and, even in this great production by Nancy Meckler, the plot feels strangely awkward.
Kudos to Joanna Horton, Alex Waldmann, Jonathan Slinger, Charlotte Cornwall, Natalie Klamar, Karen Archer, David Fielder and all the others who made this production well worth seeing and food for thought.

Alex Waldmann (Bertram)

Alex Waldmann (Bertram)

Jonathan Slinger (Parolles)

Jonathan Slinger (Parolles)

All’s Well will be on stage  at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle from 5 – 9 November.

photos by: Ellie Kurttz

First published in German on 19/09/2013 by artyviews

Titus Andronicus – breathtaking stage horror

“Titus Andronicus“ RSC production at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Stephen Boxer (Titus Andronicus) and Rose Reynolds (Lavinia)

Stephen Boxer (Titus Andronicus) and Rose Reynolds (Lavinia)

War, revenge, bloody hatred, mutilations, rape, murder – Shakespeare dug deep into the trickbox of human chasms. General Titus Andronicus returns home to Rome from his war against the Goths, bringing with him, as prisoners: Tamora, Queen of the Goths, her black lover Aaron and her three sons. According to tradition, Tamora‘s eldest son is sacrificed to the Gods, despite her pleas. She vows to take revenge…

Katy Stephens (Tamora)

Katy Stephens (Tamora)

Titus Andronicus, played by Stephen Boxer in the full depth of male disorientation between rigour and doubt, supports Saturninus (droll, John Hopkins) in his candidacy to be the next Emperor, also promising him his daughter Lavinia for wife. Lavinia (Rose Reynolds), however, is already secretly engaged to Bassianus (Richard Goulding), the new Emperor’s brother, whom she runs off with. Saturninus now makes Tamora his Empress. Katy Stephens, as Tamora, plays with the audience’s perception as seductively as with the Emperor’s. She instigates her two sons Chiron and Demetrius (Jonny Weldon and Perry Millward as nasty Beavis and Butt-Head characters) to murder Bassianus and to rape and mutilate Lavinia. All of that happens off-stage, but it leads to the scene that is the most difficult to bear, when Lavinia reappears, abused, without hands, without tongue. Rose Reynolds turns her body into a documentation that perhaps hits even deeper than images on the news, those from real-life atrocities.

Rose Reynolds (Lavinia)

Rose Reynolds (Lavinia)

Aaron (very subtle, Kevin Harvey, seen all the verbal abuse he is constantly subjected to, you nearly want to forgive his evil-mindedness) accuses two of Titus Andronicus’s sons of having murdered Bassianus, and he offers Titus the Emperor’s lenience in return for him hacking off his arm. From here onwards, the atmosphere turns from startled horror to expeditions into the world of splatter movies, accompanied by fits of nervous laughter from the audience. The hacked-off arm doesn’t help; Titus has a delivery of his son’s heads. There is one son remaining, he sends him to the Goths, to raise an army against Rome. The circle of revenge finds its last climax at a banquet, when Titus Andronicus serves Tamora her killed and minced sons in a pasty. A cartoon-like bloodlust finale only leaves Titus‘s son Lucius and grandson Lucius junior alive. As one member of the audience said after the show: “If it teaches you nothing else, revenge is probably not such a good idea.” Clip

Matthew Needham (Lucius),Kevin Harvey (Aaron)

Matthew Needham (Lucius),Kevin Harvey (Aaron)

It is one of Shakespeare’s very early plays, and it is not put on stage very often. For our modern minds, all that bloodshed is more difficult to bear than for audiences in the 16th century. Very nasty indeed, it would be, if the elements of comedy were overlooked in all that horror. Director Michael Fentiman, in his RSC debut, created a clever and breathtaking arc between things that we should take in and those that we can take in. Together with his fantastic cast, he puts the audience in a roller coaster atmosphere in which, admittedly, it can happen that someone gets rather pale.

Titus Andronicus will be on stage in Stratford up to 26th October, 2013

Photos by Simon Annand

also published in German on http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/titus-andronicus-atemberaubender-buhnenhorror/

Shakespearean Folk in the Forest of Arden

As You Like It production
of the Royal Shakespeare TheatreAYLI-6382, at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle

Wanderer between worlds, fugitives as beacons of hope, metamorphosis to a more heartfelt existence under the influence of nature… Country lad William Shakespeare, living in London’s big city hustle and bustle, certainly knew the longing he was writing about.

This production by Swedish director Maria Aberg bathes the affectionate Shakespeare comedy in an ambiance of festival, midsummer and heavenly lightness. Its atmosphere floats on dreamlike music written by composer and folk-pop singer Laura Marling.

Rosalind, the surpassing Pippa Nixon, flees, together with her cousin (Joanna Horton), from her reckless uncle’s court, shortly before also her heartthrob Orlando (Alex Waldmann) seeks refuge in the Forest of Arden, due to his brother’s murderous plans.
This is where already Rosalind’s banished father is hiding with his entourage. Rosalind, disguised as a man, comes across Orlando, who doesn’t recognize her, and teaches him the art of charming a woman.

Pippa Nixon does not only conquer Orlando – with her incredible diversity of expression, she juggles with the audience’s emotions and expectations, flying them high, letting them drop, catching them in such swing and momentum and spinning them up again, that just watching the play feels like dancing.
Alex Waldmann is a current day Orlando, hoodie wearer, misunderstood, exuberantly young and intoxicatingly physical. He displays his emotional worlds, their development and their variety in ways so touching that you’d wish you had individual scene photos for each single one of them.
Celia, Rosalind’s cousin and soulmate, is played by a fabulous Joanna Horton who credits this often neglected part with the fascination and warmth of a funny very best friend.
Touchstone the jester ensures, portrayed by Nicholas Tennant, continuous tears of laughter, and Jaques, his alter ego, in Oliver Ryan’s interpretation, comes over as a lovable drop-out comedian.

Alex Waldman (Orlando) and Pippa Nixon (Rosalind) In background David Fielder (Adam)

Alex Waldman (Orlando) and Pippa Nixon (Rosalind)
In background David Fielder (Adam)

As You Like It is going to be on stage in the Theatre Royal in Newcastle from Tue 29 October – Sat 2 November 2013.
A treat not to be missed.
(First published in German on 26/04/2013 under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/shakespeare-woodstock-im-wald-von-arden/)

Alex Waldman (Orlando)

Alex Waldman (Orlando)

Pippa Nixon (Rosalind)

Pippa Nixon (Rosalind)

Nicholas Tennant (Touchstone)

Nicholas Tennant (Touchstone)

Oliver Ryan (Jaques)

Oliver Ryan (Jaques)

 

 

Photographer:  Keith Pattison

 

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