Review: As You Like It, Southwark Playhouse

“Ay sir, I have a pretty wit”

There’s a huge amount to enjoy in Derek Bond’s cheerful interpretation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, not least the multifarious showers of confetti from the sky, Audrey as you’ve never seen her before and a beautiful score by Jude Obermüller that is performed live onstage by the cast. Set loosely in the early part of the twentieth century and somewhere in the English countryside, this is a production to put a smile on the face of audiences of all ages at the Southwark Playhouse.

It takes a little while to get there though. The opening of the play grinds through the set-up of the key personnel – Duke Frederick has kicked out his brother Duke Senior and then latterly his niece Rosalind, Oliver has kicked out his brother Orlando who has the serious hots for Rosalind who is now disguised as a man, and everyone is roaming around the Forest of Arden. There’s something a little perfunctory about the way this first act plays out – the pieces are all there but they don’t quite click in the way they should yet. Continue reading “Review: As You Like It, Southwark Playhouse”

Reviewer: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Propeller at Yvonne Arnaud

“A manly enterprise”

Propeller’s 2013/14 tour sees them revive their productions ofThe Comedy of Errors and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the latter kicking things off in a few venues this winter before the former joins it in rep early next year. The all-male Shakespeare company has rightfully garnered considerable praise for its innovative ensemble-driven approach to the Bard’s works but returning to this interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, previously seen in 2003 and 2009, sees them lose a little of that special magic that they have previously brought to bear.

Located in a Victorian attic of sorts, the story of the course of true love is surprisingly leaden in a protracted first half which fails to reveal any real sense of purpose to Edward Hall’s production. The ducal court is dull with a criminally insipid Hippolyta, any character that does arrive in Will Featherstone’s performance is too little too late; there’s a quartet of curiously bloodless lovers, with only Dan Wheeler’s Helena really standing out; and the Rude Mechanicals are serviceable but little more. Joseph Chance’s Wizard of Oz-inspired Puck really is the saving grace with his supple slyness.  Continue reading “Reviewer: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Propeller at Yvonne Arnaud”

Review: The Tempest, Jericho House at St Giles Cripplegate

“Come unto these yellow sands and then take hands”

Multiple productions of so many of Shakespeare’s works are never far away and in its 400th anniversary year, London has already seen The Tempest tackled at great length by Trevor Nunn and Ralph Fiennes at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and reimagined in the most effective and revelatory of ways by Cheek By Jowl’s Russian company at the Barbican. It is now the turn of Jericho House to make their mark on this play, also under the aegis of the Barbican but playing at the neighbouring church of St Giles Cripplegate. There’s double-casting, gender-swapping, even omission of one character and a clear infusion of Middle Eastern influence into the world of disputed territory and clashing cultures that is created inside St Giles’ – nominally “mid-way between Europe and the East”. This connection has been reinforced by a pre-London tour of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Haifa where the show has played to both Palestinian and Israeli audiences.

Given the truncated running time of 105 minutes straight through and the approach taken to the whole interpretation, this does at times come across as a rather different Tempest. Purists may baulk at Gonzalo’s non-appearance or the gender conversion to Antonia and Stephanie, but I enjoyed the playful aspect that was employed here and the doubling by Nathalie Armin and paired by Stephen Fewell as Sebastian and Trinculo, worked mostly well. Ruth Lass’ strident Ariel was superb, her haunting yelps stalking the invaders and Nabil Stuart made for a more ‘human’ Caliban who one feels for in being oppressed but whose role also feels somewhat reduced here. Cox’s Prospero was very well spoken but sometimes felt a little bit too much of a spectator, not fully invested in the events unfolding at his behest, especially concerning his daughter, an inquisitive Rachel Lynes matching well with Gabreen Khan’s Ferdinand. Continue reading “Review: The Tempest, Jericho House at St Giles Cripplegate”