Tag Archives: Royal Shakespeare Company

MIRANDA MUSICAL SOCIETY presents BRAND NEW PRODUCTION of LES MISÉRABLES

Australian Musical theatre royalty, our Geraldine Turner OAM, has applied her unique vision to expertly and deliciously direct this brand new production of LES MISÉRABLES. Huge cast of seventy, includes the best of the best lead voices, and always magnificent voices from the entire ensemble cast, visual storytelling enhanced via wonderful colourful costumes, together with effective multi-purpose sets and very very fast set changes for each new scene, excellent atmospheric lighting always matches the scene, so yes a just perfect production of this huge musical.                                                             Continue reading MIRANDA MUSICAL SOCIETY presents BRAND NEW PRODUCTION of LES MISÉRABLES

CORIOLANUS: ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Photos by Helen Maybanks
© RSC

This updated production (it is set now, or perhaps in a possible near future) as directed by Andrew Jackson emphasizes the politics and bloody battles. It is beautifully spoken and a play of contrasts: this is a production where patricians wear dinner jackets, the plebeians wear hoodies and the tribunes are as sleek as TV presenters. Political speeches are contrasted with whirling violent battle scenes. Continue reading CORIOLANUS: ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY IN SHAKESPEARE ‘S MIGHTY ‘ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA’

 

The latest Royal Shakespeare screening is a fluid, fast paced ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA starring Josette Simon as Cleopatra and Antony Byrne as Antony.

While the political machinations, battles and titular romance depicted are all historically accurate, most of the action takes place offstage, and the play focuses on the greed, pride, ambition and passion which drive Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt , Mark Antony and Octavius Caesar.

Messengers report the movements of the rivalling triumvirs and the results of unseen battles, making it  confusing and difficult to keep up with shifts and twists of the complicated narrative, especially with the huge cast involved.

Iqbal’s Khans production is contemporary in its speech rhythms,  almost everything is spoken in a kind of  prose, which means that we  lose the poetry in Enobarbus’  famous lyrical ‘burnished barge ‘ speech describing the arrival of Cleopatra.

Otherwise this production is clear, fast paced and dynamic, with a huge cast zooming through the various battles. The set, by Robert Innes Hopkins, has various parts that move up and own but features mainly minimalist staging with tall columns and imposing stairs for Rome and a bed and a giant cat for Egypt.

For the Roman scenes there are imposing senatorial togas or the soldiers are grandiose in their heavy armour, while for Egypt it is generally lighter with wonderfully textured robes for Cleopatra and exotic eye makeup.

The Roman scenes also feature a steamy sauna while for Egypt we catch a decadent masked party.The tower/tomb scene at the end for Cleopatra is performed on a risen plinth as if on a rooftop. I was  impressed by the use of the model ships for the battle of Actium.

At first mismatched there is great chemistry between the two main eponymous lovers. Simon as Cleopatra is astonishing. She is a perfectly poised chameleon, kittenish, proud, full of feline grace, teasing, mocking , with an incredible vocal and physical range. She hints at an underlying insecurity in Cleopatra.

There is brief nudity towards the end when she changes robes to stoically meet her death. As Cleopatra she reveals her inner Egyptian self, regal to the last. She changes between joyous love, icy anger, despair and laughter to hide tears. Her death is viewed as a fitting, perhaps welcomed crowning culmination. Her handmaidens Iras and Charmain ,(Kristin Atherton and Amber James),  are steadfast and loyal caught up in events .

Byrne as Antony is dominated by his love for Cleopatra yet he is also a fiery, bull headed, top flight military commander.  He has sudden cruel, violent rages yet we also see his softer, tender side.

Khan’s production highlights Mark Anthony’s personal struggle between his love for Cleopatra and his political duty to Rome.

Mostly the Roman scenes are colder and more formal, the characters moving in neat blocks of formation and where political and military decisions are made the dialogue is fast-paced dialogue, signed ,sealed and delivered quickly.

Antony’s wedding to Octavia, for example, is very stylised. Egypt, however is a decadent, captivating place of romance and pleasure. Antony’s death scene is quite brutal.

Ben Allen’s darkly handsome Octavian is a finely nuanced, captivating performance. He is presented as likeable, astute and perceptive, yet ruthless, always one step ahead of his political rivals.

In this opulent production Rome eventually conquers all at the final curtain as Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus) assumes the pose of the famous statue of him.

Running time allow just under 4 hours including interval, interviews and behind the scenes short documentary plus the cinema ads.

The Royal Shakespeare’s production of ANTONY AM Antony & Cleopatra screens at selected arthouse cinemas from the beginning of July.

 

ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY PRESENTS CYMBELINE

This is a very strong and powerful production of one of Shakespeare’s now rarely seen plays, first performed in 1611 and nowadays often classified as a ‘romance’ . It has elements of grand guignol /Jacobean revenge tragedy and is quite complicated in its plotting and many characters . It could be quite confusing unless you pay close attention.

There are three main interwoven plotlines – the British war with the Romans , the love of Innogen and Posthumus , and whatever happened to Cymbeline’s-lost children – the narratives are deftly interwoven.

Under the excellent direction of Melly Still the strong cast led by Gillian Bevan as Cymbeline and Bethan Cullinane as Innogen gave fine performances. This version is set unsettlingly in the near-future, one in which a British isolationist stance has created a landscape of desolate decay and bloody conflict with the continental powers – very topical with the Brexit debate. It is also violent in parts ( there is a beheading ).

The production is set in Ancient Britain at war with Rome but has been updated and somewhat changed – King Cymbeline ( or Cunobeline ),has here morphed into Queen (a striking,grey-haired Gillian Bevan with a long oval aristocratic face and hugely expressive eyes who is defiant for Britain).

Her consort, the “wicked step-mother” role, has been transformed into ‘the Duke’. (suave , sophisticated James Clyde) Often in productions Posthumus is cast as strong and tall with Cloten dumpy and somewhat petite but in this production this is reversed – here Cloten is big and tall, Posthumus lithe and small.

The two stolen boys in the original play are both male. Here Arviragus is male and Guideria female. ( They are shown as almost half feral forest people as marvellously portrayed by James Cooney and Natalie Simpson . ) Posthumus’s servant is male. In Still’s version Pisania is female , in a fine , solid ,doughty and supportive performance by Kelly Williams.

Shakespeare wrote all his play in English but in this production when they are in Rome they speak Latin as well as Italian and there are smatterings of other languages, too , including French , with translations in surtitles on a back screen.

When Posthumus arrives in Rome , shown as the height of decadent elegance ,he goes to a disco playing ambient techno with the posh party animals posing , strutting and preening . At other times the soundscape included haunting singing and a zither like drum . Dave Price’s score – blending wind , strings, keyboard and percussion – is superb adding just the right touch of atmosphere and depth. There are enchanting , very moving settings of ‘Hark, hark the lark’ and ‘Fear no more.’

The Romans are shown in sunglasses and blindingly crisp blue military uniforms with white detail .while the Britons of Cymbeline’s court wear somewhat tattered garments made of tweed suits or sacking.

Anna Fleischle’s striking set designs , including rubbled graffiti and – especially – a tree- ( the tree is particularly symbolic by the way) allows fluid shifts to the various locations while simultaneously providing the audience some powerful images which complement the action. Two swivelling gates are positioned at the back of the stage and there is a central pit of mud ( a grave?) . The camerawork was most accomplished and transfers this work terrifically from stage to screen , cleanly shot with dexterous use of closeup when necessary.

Through Gillian Bevan we see Cymbeline’s vacillating and she garners audience sympathy especially at the end having become a widow yet reunited with all her children – a magnificent , finely nuanced performance .
Bethan Cullinane as troubled Innogen was superb . Innogen can only find herself by running away from her mother’s court and discovering comfort in the natural world ( a bit like Rosalind in the forest of Arden) . She is presented as a survivor, brave and buoyant in times of trouble , as well as being resourceful .She accepts news of Posthumus’ alleged infidelity with shocked tears , and there is the rather bizarre , difficult scene when she smears herself in the blood of what she thinks is his headless corpse .When she is in disguise as a ‘ youth’ she is indeed almost unrecognisable.

Poor Postumus ,who suffers much too, was splendidly portrayed by small ,lithe and elegantly handsome Hiran Abeysekera . Like Othello , he is presented with faked but very believable circumstantial evidence. When he thinks Innogen is dead , wearing her bloodied skirt as a talisman and haunted by guilt and grief he unleashes his inner Shiva. Postumus is also in this production Jupiter who descends and control the odd , troubling sequence that follows with paper cutouts of people in a series of set pieces about moral dilemmas. ( For me this was the only segment of the play that didn’t work) . It is his unconscious ( as Jupiter) which leads Posthumus eventually to self-discovery and further development .
Iachomo as portrayed by devilishly handsome Oliver Johnstone was hypnotic and charismatic , with possible hints of Iago and Angelo from Measure for Measure . The scene where he spies on Imogen sleeping and steals her bracelet was passionate and intense .Does he truly reform at the end ?

Ex courtier Belarius who stole Cymbeline’s children two decades before was given a focused ,vigorous and intense performance by Graham Turner. He has a beautifully eloquent exposition scene towards the end .
Foolish blockhead Cloten has his head cut off by a fierce warrior princess yet Marcus Griffiths avoids playing Cloten as a stereotypical stage villain and makes you wonder what he is up to .

The ending with the general rejoicing reconciliation and forgiveness was cathartic and very moving , with the family reunited and Britain under Roman rule. Posthumous’ forgiveness of Iachomo was splendidly ,delicately done . The play’s denouement emphasizes the inner development of the play’s young people, but it also acknowledges the future problems as Arviragus and Guideria learn who they really are, Innogen and Posthumus have to rediscover each other again and Cymbeline has to accept and deal with her tricky situation , now she has become a yielding widow of a queen.

Running time allow 3 ½ hours including a short interval.

\Cymbeline screens at selected cinemas October 22 -26 2016 . It will be live at the Barbican in London October 31- 17 December .

 

Royal Shakespeare on Screen presents THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

Merchant-inset

The latest production of Royal Shakespeare on Screen is THE MERCHANT OF VENICE in a gripping version  of the narrative that is a little abridged and has been made contemporary.

Magnificently directed by Polly Findlay it is very powerful, in certain sections joyous and funny, at other times extremely moving and somber.

The play moves at a cracking pace , but still has room to ‘breathe’ and the famous set speeches are given time and space to make their impact. Even though the speech patterns are of today, the poetry still shines through. The play’s depiction of racism and intolerance comes across as clearly as ever. Continue reading Royal Shakespeare on Screen presents THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

The Royal Shakespeare Company In Love’s Labour’s Won

Love's Labour's Won- inset

This glorious comedy presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company is  more commonly known as MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

The Bard’s narrative has been transposed from sunny Sicily to a bitterly cold December in the UK at the end of 1918 . The action in this version is set in an Elizabethan manor at Charlecote Park, just outside of Stratford-upon-Avon, at Christmas and the house has been turned into a hospital. Beatrice and Hero are among the nurses.  Continue reading The Royal Shakespeare Company In Love’s Labour’s Won

THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (RSC ENCORE SCREENINGS)

Sarah MacRae, Jonny Glynn and Nicholas Gerard-Martin in The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Sarah MacRae, Jonny Glynn and Nicholas Gerard-Martin in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Royal Shakespeare Company, presents for the first time in 45 years and performed in full production, Shakespeare’s exuberant romantic comedy THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre main stage at Stratford-upon-Avon, and then broadcast live and digitally streamed to cinema audiences all around the world. You will love The Two Gentlemen of Verona, so long as you enjoy Shakespeare.

Written during those years whilst the bard was still learning his craft, and long before he wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the film is presented with a few musical interludes, and an extended and joyful opening containing a colourful framework full of music and spectacle. Continue reading THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (RSC ENCORE SCREENINGS)

RICHARD II

David Tennant plays the title role Richard 11. Pic Kwame Lestrade
David Tennant plays the title role Richard 11. Pic Kwame Lestrade

This is a stunning, beautifully – almost magically – designed production, a feast for both the eyes and ears. Gregory Doran’s production is magnificently orchestrated from the opening funeral in a soaring Gothic cathedral with angelic sopranos and musicians to Richard’s abdication which turns into a dangerous tug-of-war over the golden crown with Bolingbroke.

As is to be expected from the marvellous RSC  it is a lucid, clear and very moving production packed with excellent , striking performances from the entire cast . It preserves the soaring lyrical poetry of the main famous set speeches yet seems written yesterday. It is the first in a new cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays.   The bustle and business of a court is enjoyably present in a production that features wimples, trumpets and armour, and rough singing (plus soaring sublime sections of music and verse) . We see a corrupt England, an examination of dynasty and decay. The production has many sycophants and asset-strippers, men who are ripping off the state’s assets. The minute John of Gaunt passes away they dash to grab his coffers and lug them across the stage. Continue reading RICHARD II