Review: Shakespeare Trilogy, Donmar at King’s Cross

“As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free”

I must confess I hate it when critics roll their reviews of separate shows of a larger ‘event’ into one overarching piece – if you have to buy separate tickets to see the shows, then reviewers should write reviews for each one. Of course, it’s never quite as simple as that, it’s nice to have the space to talk about the whole as well as the constituent parts, but it should be noted that the Shakespeare Trilogy has been just as enjoyable, if not more so, in its individual segments as it was on the epic (and awkwardly timed) trilogy day. 

I have seen all three of the shows before, and reviewed them – Julius Caesar, Henry IV, The Tempest – so that’s my excuse for this composite piece. And for all that Phyllida Lloyd was uber-keen on having the official press response to the trilogy, I have to admit I didn’t see too much artistic merit in running them together. The only real common thread that emerges is Harriet Walter’s epic performance(s) as Hannah, the lifer who is the only character to recur in the prison setting that is used for all three shows.

What you do get from the trilogy day though is a huge sense of occasion, and the undeniable truth of the significance of what has been achieved here. Unabashedly all-female productions of Shakespeare, shaking up a (male dominated) establishment that still can’t quite let these things happen without a range of think-pieces. And in collaboration with Clean Break, there’s been numerous opportunities for graduates of Clean Break’s education programme to perform alongside Walter and co, as in Jennifer Joseph who gives a brilliantly frank interview here.

Jade Anouka also emerges as a real force over the three plays, confirming what many of us have known for a while about how exciting an actor she is (and how wasted she was in Doctor Faustus) but it is easy to find brilliant, diverse, performances across the whole company. Sheila Atim and Leah Harvey’s Ferdinand and Miranda as touching a couple as any of the Bard’s for once, Clare Dunne’s passionate Portia and stunning Hal, Jackie Clune’s Trumpified Caesar. Whether you opt to do them in one day (in which case, make plans for the gaps inbetween as they’re quite substantial) or on separate nights, this is certainly not to be missed.

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