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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We stand much hazard, if they bring not Timon.

What: Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare

Where: The Swan Theatre @ The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

When: 13th December 2018

It has been a strange year for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). It just got stranger. Their take on – should I say adaptation of Timon of Athens – is an unusual one. And that is to say something quite remarkable because this play is seldom performed.

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Wives may be merry and yet honest too

What: The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare

Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

Where: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST), Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

When: 14th August 2018

This new production of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor is quite perplexing in places but I found it a whole lot more enjoyable than their current Romeo and Juliet. And I think audiences in general will concur.

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Turn back, dull earth, and find thy centre out

What: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Who: Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

When: June 2018

A mid-season visit to the RSC’s latest interesting adaptation of a Shakespeare classic.

Relevance!

Relevance!

Relevance!

This is the catch word that almost every RSC production screams at you as soon as you enter their building in its quaint setting along the River Avon.

What does Shakespeare have to say to today’s world and its issues?

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Sensible to Feeling as to Sight

What: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Who: Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)

Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

When: 20th March 2018

When a familiar play opens and you see characters normally associated with adults being played by pre-teen girls, it is difficult to stifle an inward groan. But, in actuality, this production of Macbeth is very strong indeed and is one which you should hunt for tickets for. It really does have an awful lot to commend it. This is a taut, energetic production with some exceptional acting.

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