Thou basest thing, avoid! hence, from my sight!

What: Cymbeline by William Shakespeare

Who: Royal Shakespeare Company

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

When: May 26th 2016

Mmm… first of all you’re asked to delay your night at a Shakespeare play then your hotel manager tells you that the play has had somewhat “mixed reviews”. Then you hear the story of how the first night’s audience were given a refund because the play was running well behind in its mad dash to be ready for press night. As you take your seat in the theatre perhaps you’re right in not having too high an expectation of the night’s proceedings.

On the way in you had handed over your £4 for the programme. Back in the day, the programmes were fully of scholarly essays about the play itself. These days, it has become customary for the programme to be full of pieces about the themes that the director and producer have decided to emphasise in this performance. There is an essay about the European Union and the danger of Britain breaking away from it. There is an interview with the director about the gender changes in the Dramatis Personae.

At least you know what’s coming. The married couple next to us who didn’t buy a programme (having paid £110 for a pair of tickets) left at the interval mumbling that “it wasn’t worth watching”.

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(It) may not fare a whit the worse, for the false pace of the verse.

What: Volpone or the Fox

Who: Ben Jonson

Where: The Swan Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

When: July 16th, 2015

If I was going to see the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at either The Royal Shakespeare Theatre or The Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon or any of their increasingly frequent transfers to London, New York and the world at large, I would always buy a programme.

They are only £4 and reading between the lines, you will find an awful lot about the RSC’s goals in their production of the play at hand. You will then, in turn, get a feel for how their production will differ from the one you were hoping for (for some infamous examples, see my reviews of the 2011 production of The Merchant of Venice https://twilightdawning.com/2011/05/28/all-at-sea/ and the following year’s Troilus and Cressida https://twilightdawning.com/2012/08/13/remixed-shakespeare-for-the-hip-hop-generation/ amongst others). You will also find that sometimes the play production that they are presenting falls short of its own goals.

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