Going Forth With The Shakespearience…

What: Go Forth With The Shakespearience

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith

Who: The Shakespearience

When: May 2017

One day whilst I was in Stratford-Upon-Avon with the Royal Shakespeare Company, I woke up in my hotel room with a fairly fully formed idea for bringing Shakespeare to schools, using professional actors and musicians, and giving young people a first exposure to live theatre.

It’s now 8 years since we started working with local schools as part of their literature programme. We’ve always worked with the schools in the areas of faith and religious education but we thought as well as enhancing the teaching in those areas, we ought to give back to the community in the areas that God has gifted us in. This has meant that over those years we’ve worked on poetry workshops (with Paul Cookson), performances of Shakespeare and more recently, since Chris Jarvis has joined us in a range of other hands-on activities.

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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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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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The Merchant of Venice

Well, back from 4 days in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

What can I say? The town is a mess. The unnecessary vigour to tear down the old theatre and replace it with a new one as now spread to the Bancroft Gardens. Every inch seems to have been dug over and turned to mud. Fences and scaffold surround everywhere in sight and I felt sorry for those who had travelled from France and Japan (seemed like the only two kind of tourists in evidence!) who had made a long journey and who were missing the old town at its best.

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