Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing starring Eve Best and Charles Edwards at Shakespeare’s Globe 15th July 2011

 More than 400 years on, Shakespeare’s play has lost none of its power to delight – and to astonish.

The show generated great waves of warm laughter from a packed house that hung on to every word. With the Globe stage covered with pools of blue water and its pillars transformed into fruit-laden orange trees, this production memorably blends the play’s humour with its moments of darkness.

The cast don’t disappoint either – Eve Best’s Beatrice (above) is fiercely intelligent, ironic and good-hearted, using her prodigious wit as a shield against hurt. She makes it plain that her heart has already been bruised by Benedick and that her insults and jibes are intended to keep him at a distance.

Charles Edwards (above right) gives a superb performance as a feeling, thinking man who keeps pain at bay by pretending to be a cheerful silly ass.

The scenes when both are duped into believing that they are loved by the other and finally acknowledge their true feelings are staged with great wit and imagination. Best even grabs the hand of one of the groundlings as she describes her sudden, unexpected happiness.

But, right to the end, both actors suggest the precariousness of their love in a world corrupted by sin and made even more complex by their own prodigious intelligence. Only when they kiss (to the delighted cheers of the audience) does the flow of words end in the joy of their mutual love.

Where it matters most, in the wit, wounded feelings and final happiness of Beatrice and Benedick, this production soars.” The Telegraph

This is one of the best theatre experiences I’ve ever had – elbows on the stage being totally swept away in the fantastic storytelling of Shakespeare and the phenomenal skill and talent of this truly wonderful cast. I can’t praise it highly enough. Just magical.

REVIEW: Richard III – Old Vic Theatre, London

It’s a funny thing indeed to see your acting hero in the flesh, there’s a hint of unreality that it’s really just a film your watching. Expectations were high; the tension in the air before the performance at the Old Vic was palpable. I have never felt an atmosphere like it, the audience was literally buzzing.

The moment Kevin Spacey appeared on stage and announced “Now is the winter of our discontent” there was a sharp intake of breathe and the audience seemed to hold it there in total silence for the next two hours until the first interval. It’s a testament to him and a strong supporting cast that the two hours flew by in the blink of an eye. Totally breathtaking from start to finish.

It’s easy to see why Spacey has two Oscars, he is totally magnetic, even when not part of the action you can’t help follow his every move. Chewing The Scenery blog agrees;

“He (Spacey) is unavoidably watchable whenever he is on stage; often his reactions and expressions are more exciting than the dialogue being delivered by the rest of the very talented cast. In no way does Spacey attempt to compensate for his screen acting experience by exaggerating his gestures beyond what is necessary; every gesture is beautifully judged and every syllable articulate. Put plainly, Kevin Spacey over the course of three and a half hours proves to over 1,000 people each night exactly why he is the best. His monologues and asides to the audience are so delightfully acted, it was hard not to become mesmerised in the presence of a true star.”

This was a truly momentous experience – one you get the feeling only comes around once a decade. Proof of this was the fact there were more famous actors in the audience than on the stage, no doubt coming to see if Spacey was all he was hyped up to be. Well, simply put – he is! I, like my fellow audience members was on my feet at the end and the ovation just thundered on and on. This was remarkable – unforgettable theatrical magic!

REVIEW: Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe starring Paul Hilton and Arthur Darvill, Shakespeare’s Globe 12th July 2011

“Doctor Faustus, restless for knowledge, forsakes scholarship for magic and makes a pact with the Devil: if the evil spirit Mephistopheles will serve him for 24 years, Faustus will yield his soul to the Devil after death. It isn’t long before Faustus has doubts about the bargain, but Mephistopheles has plenty of entertainment at hand to distract Faustus from the terrifying reality of his position and the prospect of its agonising conclusion.”

Doctor Faustus is considered to be the greatest tragedy in English before Shakespeare. Marlowe puts some of the greatest poetry ever written for the stage and a good deal of anarchic comedy at the service of a mythic tale illustrating mankind’s insatiable desire for knowledge and power.

Mephistopheles is played by Arthur Darvill, best known as Rory in Doctor Who.  Doctor Faustus by Paul Hilton, who was last seen at the Globe in 1998 as Orlando in As You Like It and whose other credits include: Rosmersholm (Almeida Theatre), The Daughter-in-Law (Young Vic) and Silk (BBC).

Paul Hilton is charismatic and suitably intense as the lonely, restless scholar who trades 24 years of earthly glory for an eternity of damnation.

This is a clear telling of the story and it’s a visually satisfying production with plenty of gore, pageantry and puppetry.

Arthur Darvill, however, is less convincing as the devil’s right hand man; although competent he lacks any real presence.

 On a lighter note this play for all its a telling of a literally diabolical tale has many comic notes most of them excellently supplied by Pearce Quigley as Robin. This is an excellent production and I would recommend it whole-heartedly.

REVIEW: King Lear, Donmar Theatre Production, King’s Theatre Glasgow starring Derek Jacobi 12th March 2011

An ageing monarch. A kingdom divided. A child’s love rejected. As Lear’s world descends into chaos, all that he once believed is brought into question. One of the greatest works in western literature, King Lear explores the very nature of human existence: love and duty, power and loss, good and evil.

It is a Lear without the hystrionics and wailing and gnashing of teeth and all the better for it. It was a beautifully measured performance from almost all. The absence of hamming meant that the Shakespearean text, which can be hard to conceive, was beautifully conveyed.

 The supporting cast including Gina McKee (Goneril, above right), (below from top) Tom Beard (Duke of Albany), Michael Hadley (Earl of Kent), Paul Jesson (Gloucester) and Gwilym Lee (Edgar) were especially adept, each delivering just the right amount of emotion for each role.

 

 The white-washed planking set meant that all attention was focussed on the performance and was particularly effective in the storm scene where Jacobi delivers the ‘Blow winds and crack your cheeks’ speech as a hushed whisper making it all the more spellbinding. The King’s descent into madness is heart  wrenching and his end is as dignified and graceful as the rest of the performance. I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this before it heads to Broadway: “trailing hosannas in its wake.”

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