Saturday, September 02, 2006


Back from wrestling with the Sutherland Hamlet to the real thing at Stratford - a weekend of three contrasting plays in three different RSC venues, The Swan , Holy Trinity Church and The Courtyard. It was the Bank Holiday weekend; the RSC's 4 venues [the three I've mentioned plus the main RST] played to 97% of capacity, a record.

Love's Labour's Lost

"Your wit's too hot, it speeds too fast, 'twill tire."

We began with a matinee in "the posteriors of the day; which the rude multitude call the afternoon" in The Swan. Washington D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre Company gave us an immensely enjoyable LLL set in an ashram, with the King of Navarre as the Maharishi and Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine as three guys in a succcessful band - endless excuses for rocking and rolling, all of which were seized. There were Vespas, pith helmets, a joint-rolling Costard[presumably illegal in Scotland?], the three guys appeared disguised as Russian astronauts, and the production rattled along with tremendous pace and spirit. The audience, including us, loved every minute and laughed a great deal. It's perhaps a little ungenerous to say that half an hour later I had that Chinese meal feeling - but I did.

Paul Taylor in The Independent had no such reservations, writing
"delectably funny...the fast-paced production manages the transition to chastened sobriety with true emotional depth. A joy"

Personal Star Rating [out of five] ***

Henry VIII

"Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, He would not in mine age Have left me naked to mine enemies."

AandBC's production in Holy Trinity, Shakespeare's church, raised the hair on the back of my neck .Brilliant direction and a strong cast triumphed over the narrow nave-length stage. Soprano voices from the choir, thunderous knocking on the church door, the light from the sanctuary and the stained glass windows [replaced since their destruction in the Reformation] made an extraordinary backdrop. And the beautiful 7 month old Alice Wood as the infant Elizabeth behaved impeccably as she was christened, like Shakespeare, in the Holy Trinity font. She stole the show.

Michael Billington, who gave it four stars in The Guardian,wrote,

"...the real star, apart from the baby, is Holy Trinity, which lends this rarely seen late play a sombre, melancholy grandeur"

He is absolutely right. This wonderful church needs to raise £2.5 million to restore, in particular, the spire, currently surrounded by scaffolding, and part of the nave. Their website is in my links on the right; please help if you can.

Personal Star Rating [out of five] *****

Two Gentlemen of Verona

"Much is the force of heaven-bred poesy"

This was a solo performance by Nos do Morro from Brazil, with whom Cicely Berry has been working for many years, combining with the Birmingham-based Gallery 57. Both are projects that help, through the theatre, young people who have had a challenging start in life. The production was emotional and energetic throughout, with wonderful dance, song and movement that made the most of The Courtyard. Spoken mostly in Portuguese, with surtitles, the packed house loved every moment. My only regret was lacking the stamina to go to the party at the Dirty Duck afterwards.

Personal Star Rating [out of five] Hors Concours


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