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.
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!
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.”