John Shuttleworth is back!

Where: Leicester Square Theatre, London

When: March 2020

Who: John Shuttleworth

When: John Shuttleworth’s back

Or is he? Due to an error in Ken Worthington’s printing of the flyers and posters for the tour, it reads “John Shuttleworth’s back”, making it sound not so much like our hero’s return to live performance but a reference to the rear features of the star. This is not the first time that Mr Worthington has messed up the promotion and so the gallant star plays the first few minutes of the show with his back facing the audience in order to fulfill the promise of the posters.

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Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan

What: The Girl from the North Country

When: February 2020

Musical by Conor McPherson, Songs by Bob Dylan (used by permission, Dylan has no formal involvement)

This is not “We Will Rock You” or “Mamma Mia”. The Queen and Abba musicals are essentially vehicles to promote the greatest hits in the back catalogue of two acts that are no longer recording. The songs are made to measure into storylines of varying ridiculousness and unbelievability.

It is also not “Jersey Boys”. There the story of Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio’s musical partnership is told (albeit in a truncated form) and the songs are inserted to illustrate the development of the 4 Seasons’ career. This indeed was a level higher and a completely different approach to your average “jukebox musical” as the first category has often been labelled.

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Worth every Pound you invested

Who: Steve Hackett and Band

Where: Hammersmith Apollo, London

When: 29th November 2019

What: Selling England by the Pound, 40th Anniversary of Spectral Mornings and other songs

Someone I know was complaining how expensive concert-going is getting. “Soon”, he said, “no-one will be to afford to go to a show”.

His thoughts have some merit, but my concerns are in a different area. Too many concerts are able to charge their inflated prices because they revolve entirely around nostalgia and people ARE willing to pay to relive a certain period from their lives

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All form is formless, order orderless

What: King John by William Shakespeare

When: October 2019

Who: Royal Shakespeare Company

Where: The Swan Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Three plays? No, just one.

Are you sure? Well, yes as much as I can be sure about anything to do with this production.

But whatever we say, we have to say that the production is an untidy mess.

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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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