#AdventwithClowns Day 18 – King John (RSC via Britbox)

Eleanor Rhode offers up a vibrantly contemporary production of King John for the RSC, with a striking lead performance from Rosie Sheehy

“Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!”

You wouldn’t normally turn to King John for an eye-openingly modern piece of Shakespeare but this 2019 RSC production really seems to buck the trend. Vibrantly directed by Eleanor Rhode with some superb design work from Max Johns, it’s ostensibly set somewhere in the mid-20th century, powerful parallels emerge with the vagaries of our contemporary administration.

Rosie Sheehy is a vivid presence as the titular monarch, full of artifice in her public persona but unable to stop a full moral disintegration eating away from within. And Charlotte Randle is awesome as Constance, the King’s sister-in-law and mother to a rival pretender to the throne. pushing home the personal costs of a cut-throat political system that takes no prisoners in any of its battles.

Photo: Steve Tanner
King John is available to watch on Britbox

#AdventwithClowns Day 14 – Othello, RSC (Britbox)

This 2015 RSC production of Othello soars with its lead pairing of Hugh Quarshie and Lucian Msamati, I really should have gone to see this one 

“We then have done you bold and saucy wrongs”

In all honesty, it’s hard to get myself roused for a lot of Shakespeare productions now, the same old plays coming round and round again not appealing like it once did. So it takes something special, or some canning casting choices, to make me sit up and pay attention and Iqbal Khan’s 2015 production of Othello for the RSC certainly has both in spades.

The first production in Stratford to cast a black in Iago in the wonderful Lucian Msamati against Hugh Quarshie’s Othello, the central relationship of the play is blisteringly recast and remixed. The racial dynamic naturally becomes something totally new but entirely fitting, and compelling, you might not quite sympathise with this Iago but you see much more of his point of view. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 14 – Othello, RSC (Britbox)”

#AdventwithClowns Day 9 – The Winter’s Tale (RSC via iPlayer)

Despite some beautiful moments, the RSC’s filmed take on The Winter’s Tale has problems beyond being a problem play

“Shakespeare lived through a pandemic and it was during that time he wrote King Lear”

The pandemic brought about some really interesting responses from several of our major producing houses, the call to just ‘do it online’ proving much easier to yell from our lockdowned sofas than to actually put into practice. Some theatres that could, delved into their cupboards to dust off archive copies that were never meant to see the light of day, and the National gave us NT at Home watchalongs but also created something unique with their hybrid theatre/film version of Romeo and Juliet.

The RSC opted to mount a filmed version of their postponed production of The Winter’s Tale, rescued by the BBC’s Lights Up arts strand. But despite it being specifically created for screen, it doesn’t really make the most of this new medium. Erica Whyman’s production is full of some gorgeous moments – not least multiple breathtaking fabric drops (Hermione and the baby’s shroud? Simply stunning!) – but it feels like (perhaps not unreasonably) this is just the version that we would have seen onstage. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 9 – The Winter’s Tale (RSC via iPlayer)”

News: two new theatrically inclined podcasts announced

Whilst we edge ever closer to curtains maybe rising once again, a new pair of podcasts should see us through

Hear Me Out is a brand-new podcast from actor and producer Lucy Eaton, most recently seen on TV screens starring alongside David Tennant, Michael Sheen, and her brother Simon Evans in BBC1’s Staged.  The first four episodes are now available to listen to with guests Mark Bonnar, Denise Gough, Adrian Lester, and Claire Skinner. A new episode will then be released each Tuesday from 30 March onwards with future guests including Brendan Coyle, Freddie Fox, Patricia Hodge, Maddy Hill, and Giles Terera.  Hear Me Out is available to listen to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.com, and all major streaming platforms.  Filmed clips from the episodes can also be found on YouTube @PodHearMeOut.

Hear Me Out puts the audience back in the stalls or, closer still, the rehearsal room. Creeping further into 2021, many have endured twelve months without a curtain going up. This new podcast invites theatre-loving audiences to re-connect with theatre-makers in a unique celebration of language and performance. Continue reading “News: two new theatrically inclined podcasts announced”

News: October UK theatre news update

We’re beginning to see the fruits of some more of the lockdown programming that has seen theatres across England respond in a variety of impressive ways

Nottingham Playhouse’s Unlocked Festival continues to rocket up the must-see list as it announces more details. Their local writing commission has ended up with two winners – Wayward Thread’s Hand Me Down and Lapelle’s Factory’s Shuck, both of which will now receive work-in-progress performances as part of the festival.

Casting has also been announced for James Graham’s Bubble, which will star the marvellous Pearl Mackie and the equally marvellous Jessica Raine. They join the likes of Mark Gatiss and Jade Anouka reading ghost stories on
Halloween, new work from Naomi Obeng and a concert starring Rosalie Craig, Sandra Marvin and Jodie Prenger. Continue reading “News: October UK theatre news update”

The 2019 Ian Charleson Award nominees announced

The Ian Charleson Award celebrates performances by actors under 30 in a classical role and is dedicated to Scottish actor Ian Charleson, who died in 1990 aged just 40. Whilst I remain unconvinced that this is a category that merits special consideration, especially if it isn’t going to reach out to the fringes, it is still good to see a pleasing range of actors being recognised here.

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo for Abosede in Three Sisters at the National Theatre

Hammed Animashaun for Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre

Kitty Archer for Mariane in Tartuffe at the National Theatre

Eben Figueiredo for Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac at Jamie Lloyd Company at the Playhouse

Heledd Gwynn for Hedda in Hedda Gabler at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff and Hastings and Ratcliffe in Richard III for Headlong

Isis Hainsworth for Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre

Ebony Jonelle for Rosalind in As You Like It for the National Theatre Public Acts/Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Ioanna Kimbook for Cariola in The Duchess of Malfi at the Almeida

Racheal Ofori for Udo in Three Sisters at the National Theatre

Billy Postlethwaite for Macbeth in Macbeth at the Watermill Theatre

Ekow Quartey for Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe

Kit Young for Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre