O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint, With saints dost bait thy hook!

What: Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company

When: July 2019

“The poetic atmosphere is one of religion and critical morality. The religious colouring is orthodox, as in Hamlet.”[1]

“There have, however, been others, notably in the last century, such unlikely yoke-fellows as Gervinus in Germany and Walter Pater in England who have seen the play neither as expressive of cynicism and disgust nor as filled with the spirit of the Gospels and yet believe it to be no ‘meaningless’ entertainment but serious and coherent exploration of certain moral issues. It is in support of this view that the following pages are written”.[2]

I have two touchstones, benchmarks if you will, when it comes to Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” and the above quotations are examples of their understanding of the play and the differences between those understandings. Gregory Doran’s production of the play in Stratford-Upon-Avon may have become a third.

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I Never Thought it Possible or Likely…

What: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

Where: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

When: 19th March 2019

The Royal Shakespeare Company when announcing their 2019 season said that they were going to show the relevance of Shakespeare’s writings to the modern era. There is no question that they have attempted this – although they could be accused of majoring only on one contemporary issue.

Like a percussionist surrounded by many instruments but beating on only one drum, they have taken up only the issue of gender. This meant that in the seldom-performed “Timon of Athens”, they left us wondering what the value of the change of gender was – although it did give some opportunity for strong female character actors in the principal roles. Very few of the audience would know the original play well enough to appreciate the difference that making all the lead characters female had made. Then there was As You Like It where the gender swaps caused a complete meltdown in the second half of the play as an already complex plot became just too untidy.

But with The Taming of the Shrew, by George, I believe they may have added in something worthwhile.

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We are not alone unhappy: This Wide and Universal Theatre…

What: As You Like It by William Shakespeare

Where: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company

When: 21st February 2019

Kimberly Sykes’ direction of the current Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production of “As You Like It” has many strengths but there are some self-created weaknesses which it seems to me have little to do with the writing of the Bard of Avon. The peculiar things is that they are similar flaws to those present in other recent productions by the RSC and those were handled by other directors. I hate to be repeating myself but… What is going on here?

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We stand much hazard, if they bring not Timon.

What: Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare

Where: The Swan Theatre @ The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

When: 13th December 2018

It has been a strange year for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). It just got stranger. Their take on – should I say adaptation of Timon of Athens – is an unusual one. And that is to say something quite remarkable because this play is seldom performed.

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Well, I say Troilus is Troilus,… this is… Cressida, this is not Cressida

What: Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon, England

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

When: 18th October 2018

As always, in recent years, I have titled my assessment of an RSC production with a quote or two from the play itself, but I must admit, even to myself, that this title is a little hard to understand and consequently it won’t help you to get to the heart of what I’m trying to say in this review unless I break it down a little.

To explain I must digress a little…

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Alvin – A True Star on All Kinds of Levels

Commemorating the life of Alvin Stardust, I think I heard somewhere that tributes were being sought for an event which is to be held in the town of his youth, Mansfield. The suggestion may have come from Dave Harness who functioned as Alvin’s road manager during the latter part of his career and who I count as a friend but, anyway, I read it somewhere. It got me to thinking on what I’d want to say.

I can’t be at the opening day of the event because of a writing commission which is going to take me to New York for a month, but I hope to visit it thereafter, but I thought to gather my thoughts here and now.

I’d written an obituary of sorts about Alvin at the time of his passing which can be found elsewhere on the internet including here:

https://twilightdawning.com/2014/10/29/good-rockers-can-never-die/

which covers his career in broad-strokes, so maybe something about my inter-action with the man.

Back in the mid-90s my agent rang me and asked me if I would be at all interested in interviewing “an old glam rocker called Alvin Stardust”(!) while he was on tour and specifically at his show in Croydon at the Fairfield Halls. What my caller didn’t realise was that when I was 9 I’d seen Mr Stardust on Top of the Pops and become convinced that he was the coolest man in the world. It was a moment that has affected me right to this very day and I guess I knew from that moment that I’d be forever “dressed in black” myself.

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Wives may be merry and yet honest too

What: The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

Where: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST), Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

When: 14th August 2018

This new production of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor is quite perplexing in places but I found it a whole lot more enjoyable than their current Romeo and Juliet. And I think audiences in general will concur.

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