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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A Strange Fish!

Holy Gonzalo (Act V Scene 1), Batman! The RSC may have a hit on their hands.

What: The Tempest by William Shakespeare

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

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company

When: 24th November 2016

This production of the Tempest attempts to break new boundaries in theatre-making with the very first use of “live motion capture” in a major stage production … and it succeeds… just…

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“Having been praised for bluntness, (he) doth affect a saucy roughness”

What: King Lear by William Shakespeare

Who: Royal Shakespeare Company

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

In the recent Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) presentation of Hamlet, a classroom scene is created at the beginning at which the title of the play is spoken to announce young Hamlet’s graduation and then the scene is cleared and the play proper begins. I think it was meant to be clever but really it served no purpose. At the beginning of this performance of Lear a group of maybe 10 actors take the stage shrouded in something like lepers’ attire or flimsy beggar garb as shelter against the cold night. When the actors enter for the first scene proper they leave hastily too – shooed away. But this time the importance of this scene is not lost on the rest of the production. Rather, it adds. And like most everything here, it is solid and meaningful.

Solid.

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Ascend the Bright Heaven of Invention

What: Henry V by William Shakespeare

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company

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

When: October 1st, 2015

Sometimes the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “devices” to make a particular production innovative and relevant to the modern audience don’t work. I’m amongst their sharpest critics when they don’t. Occasionally they do. Now whilst audiences members that I spoke to after the performance and during the interval were divided, I have to say I fall into the positive camp when it comes to this most recent production of Henry the Fifth.

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I Understand A Fury In Your Words. But Not The Words.

What: Othello by William Shakespeare

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

When: 11th June 2015

“We’ve tried to make it less ridiculous, so we’ve cut some lines… which leaves us open to the accusation that by doing so we have made it less sublime – we’ve cut some of the music of Othello”.

– Hugh Quashie (Othello) in conversation with the Stratford-Upon-Avon Herald.

It is indeed interesting when the principal actor in a Shakespeare production describes the plotline of one of the Bard’s plays as being ridiculous – so ridiculous that it is worth spoiling the rhythm and rhyme of the play to correct. One might even consider this a kind of arrogance.

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It wearies me; you say it wearies you

What: The Merchant of Venice

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

When: 21st May 2015

A writer in the UK newspaper “The Telegraph” pointed out how far short of the production at the Globe in London, the current RSC version of “The Merchant of Venice” falls. It is indeed unusual for two parallel productions to be running like this. It is, if you will, a surfeit of Merchants.

I cover only the RSC’s productions so I do not have the benefit or disadvantage of comparison. I, therefore, can only point out how the RSC’s production fails on its own merits. The audience were enthusiastic. The cast were spirited but bad directorial and staging decisions doomed it from the start.

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…I was born to speak all mirth and no matter…

What: Much Ado About Nothing (promoted as “Love’s Labour’s Won”) by William Shakespeare

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

When: 20th November 2014

So I was back in Stratford-Upon-Avon for the second half of this strange coupling that Gregory Doran is determined to promote as “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “Love’s Labour’s Won”. In reality, as I suggested in my earlier review these two plays share no common ground other than their humorous tone and those imposed by the director’s decision-making.

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