This Timeless Tragedy…Why Dost Thou Laugh?

What: Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

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

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

When: 4th July 2017

The RSC’s current production of “Titus Andronicus” is a bloody mess.

And that is both a good thing and a bad thing.

“Titus Andronicus” is meant to be violent and bloody and the RSC have achieved that with great aplomb.

However, “Titus Andronicus” is meant (in my view) to be macabre rather than comedic and here too much is played simply for laughs.

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A Dish Fit For… Everyone

What: Julius Caesar

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Who: Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

When: 4th May 2017.

This reviewer is confused

The RSC decided in their wisdom to have “press day” for both Antony & Cleopatra and Julius Caesar on the same day. Figuring that seeing two plays on one day would rather ruin the palate for the second, I decided to opt out of one. On the flip of a coin and because I prefer the “Cleopatra” play normally, I decided to come back and see Julius Caesar another day even though my review would appear later than everyone else’s and although it would mean seeing the plays out of sequence. Also, sequentially, it makes much more sense for Julius Caesar to be seen first.

Now I have to say that “Antony and Cleopatra” was horrible and the worst production i have seen from the RSC for a number of years.

Now since there is a director overseeing the four productions in the RSC’s Rome series, I estimated that this production would go in roughly the same direction as Iqbal Khan’s “Anthony and Cleopatra” and would need some fine performances to save it.

I needn’t have worried because Angus Jackson’s “Julius Caesar” is confusingly, truly excellent. Not flawless but truly, truly excellent and you would do well to see it.

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“a …piece of work; which … to have been blest withal would have discredited your travel.”

Who: Royal Shakespeare Company

What: Antony and Cleopatra

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre

When: 23rd March 2017

This is the first of four reviews that I will deliver over the coming months on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) Rome season. We begin with Antony and Cleopatra and then head through Julius Caesar, Titus Andronicus and Coriolanus. The comfort of this is that it gives the RSC three attempts to improve upon this woeful Antony and Cleopatra.

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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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“Nobility enforce a freedom out of Bondage, making misery their Mirth”

What: The Two Noble Kinsmen by John Fletcher and William Shakespeare

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

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company

When: October 2016

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) performances are oh-so-relevant. Or at least they think they are.

But are they trying a little too hard?

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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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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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