Review: 4**** Titus Andronicus The Show Must Go Online @robmyles #ShakespeareDeck #cultureduringquarantine #staycreative

Tweetingit: 4* The ancient and modern meet head on as social media lends a hand in this inventive production of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tale.

The techno phobe lurking deep within me is now under control thanks in no small part to the ever inventive Show Must Go Online. It’s difficult to imagine how a theatrical production could possibly work on Zoom via YouTube. But these talented thespians turn the trick despite a maddening dip in sound levels.

However the company were undaunted and the gremlins were thankfully defeated. Zoom splits the screen which can feature anything between two and eight actors at any given time. Stage directions are provided with vision mixing according to the requirements of each scene. A green border marked the actor when they spoke as a surprisingly tense live performance began.

Titus Andronicus explores the vagaries of power and ambition as fragile alliances are made and broken at will. The Roman Emperor is dead and his sons Saturninus (Wayne Lee) and Bassianus (Khuyen Le) are fighting over who should succeed him. However Marcus Andronicus (Julia Walker Wyson) appears to calm troubled waters with the announcement that brother Titus (Michael Bertenshaw) is the people’s choice of Emperor. Titus will shortly return from a victorious war against the Goths with numerous scores to settle.

From an actor’s point of view it can’t be easy delivering a performance under these conditions. Actors invariably take their cue from other cast members.

They rely on gestures and mannerisms when delivering a line. Eye contact is vital in timing the correct response especially on stage. All these physical prompts the actors might rely upon are, inevitably largely missing but this did not matter. There was the occasional moment where they spoke over each other’s lines and in these circumstances, this is an occupational hazard but it never troubled the performer nor viewer. The company happily improvised props and links to smooth the transition between scenes.  

An actor will never just do a reading, it is always more than that and this group of fantastic actors prove this.

The Show Must Go Online has also produced an online guide for viewers staging a themed party including themed drinks and food. The mind wanders to dark places where Titus Andronicus is concerned but hey, why not?   

Director: Rob Myles

Next week is Richard III

To support the production, go to their patreon

To watch, go to their YouTube page

Review: 3*** Antony and Cleopatra – RSC at Stratford-Upon-Avon @MarqueeArtsTV @TheRSC #staycreative

Tweetingit: 3* A well-drilled, highly talented cast go through the numbers and deliver a slick production. But this feels like an overly sterile approach to an infrequently staged play.

Well three hours four minutes and thirty five seconds is a bit of a stretch even for a battle hardened theatre goer like me. But I was undaunted by the marathon that is Antony and Cleopatra. Watching online is a less onerous prospect as it can be split into bite sized viewing portions.

Even so, a highly efficient production by the RSC at Stratford-Upon-Avon is still heavy going. There is a slavish commitment to detail that adds little to the narrative and sails dangerously close to self-indulgence. Tony and Cleo is essentially a love job hovering between tragedy and history – a tale supercharged by the greatest power brokers of the ancient world.

Continue reading “Review: 3*** Antony and Cleopatra – RSC at Stratford-Upon-Avon @MarqueeArtsTV @TheRSC #staycreative”

Review: 3*** Macbeth – The Musical. White Bear Theatre #MacbeththeMusical @WhiteBearTheatr @StageSplinters

Tweetingit: 3* Shakespeare meets Avenue Q in a refreshing new treatment of the Scottish Play. The pub crowd will love it!

Shakespeare productions are frequently accused of stuffiness and dense language. But just occasionally an adaptation will break down these barriers. Stage Splinters have produced just such a show with great imagination and potential. Using Avenue Q style puppets and engaging original songs they place Macbeth in an entirely new light. The White Bear is a lovely pub with a neat and compact theatre upstairs.  A basic set is adorned with a simple curtain from which performers emerge. Two TV screens project sketch images prior to every scene; which work surprisingly well although the screens could have been slightly bigger.

For the purpose of visualisation this is the plot they bring to life: somewhere in the Scottish moorlands Macbeth and Banquo, two of King Duncan’s generals come upon three witches. They predict Macbeth’s promotion and elevation to the Kingship of Scotland. It is also foretold that Banquo’s descendants shall be kings. Afterwards, King Duncan names Macbeth Thane of Cawdor in thanks for his success in recent battles, which seems to support the prophecy. Lady Macbeth receives news from her husband about the prophecy and his new title, and vows to help him become king by any means necessary.

Continue reading “Review: 3*** Macbeth – The Musical. White Bear Theatre #MacbeththeMusical @WhiteBearTheatr @StageSplinters”

Review: 4**** Hamlet – St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden @Iristheatre

Tweetingit: 4* A beautiful setting and confidently staged version of a classic Shakespeare tale. Even better the rain stayed away…hurrah!


A damp early morning drizzle had thankfully given way to a bright, warm summer
evening. Performers entertained a crowd on the piazza while an endless throng of tourists passed through. Open air productions are naturally a hostage to the weather; but the gods were kind as the Iris Theatre presented Hamlet at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. The Actor’s Church looked majestic with its picturesque gardens bathed in sunshine. The action gradually moved around the landscape for each scene, occasionally dipping inside the church to make the most of awe inspiring architecture. Designed by Inigo Jones and finished in 1633, it can easily pass as an authentic Elizabethan building; and so provide a convincing setting for Shakespeare.

Like so much of the Bard’s work, Hamlet plugs into themes that remain timeless and universal. The story lands on Prince Hamlet played by Jenet Le Lacheur. Following the death of his father, kingship has passed to Uncle Claudius (Vinta Morgan) who marries Gertrude (Clare Bloomer), widow of the dead king. Secret machinations abound as Hamlet mourns his dead father, but who can he trust; eyes and ears are everywhere? But he does at least have the support of friend and confidant Horatio (Harold Addo). At court, Claudius takes counsel from Polonius (Paula James) and grants Laertes (Joe Parker) permission to resume his studies in France. Ophelia (Jenny Horsthuis) has designs on the Prince; but her father Polonius warns against the liaison. What revelations will now be brought to bear?

The Iris Theatre has reduced open air productions to a fine art. The design and staging is pretty much spot on; brown military uniforms with red and gold trim bring to mind images of the old Soviet regime; while TV screens lining the performance area offer a great contrast between the classic and modern. Characters would send each other emails; video clips simultaneously played on screens adding a unique dimension to the story. Inevitably with outdoor shows the sound quality suffers, particularly with noise overspill from street entertainers.

Scenes inside the church reached high drama purely because of the spirituality engendered by its surroundings. There were also some excellent set pieces which used the interior to great effect. The cast were charismatic and engaging, making every breath and syllable count. Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play with the full version clocking up around four hours. The Iris Theatre sensibly restricted the production to a more manageable two hours thirty minutes. It means the best lines stand out even more; like ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions’. Ain’t that the truth!?

Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Daniel Winder
Producer: Iris Theatre
Booking Link: https://iristheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows
Booking Until: 27 July 2019

Review: 4**** Romea & Julian The Bread & Roses @RomeaAndJulian @BreadandRosesTC

I arrived at the Bread & Roses a little dubious as I’m not exactly a Shakespeare buff, despite a deep appreciation for his language I do sometimes struggle if the story telling is not clear and confident. romea-and-julian-poster

I was, however, reassured by the gender swapping title, that this interpretation would bring a fresh perspective on what can be a difficult narrative with problematic and mostly silent female characters.

The action begins with two of the ensemble throwing a tennis ball around the small stage, this sets the tone for the entire show as they have experimented with many elements of the play to shake it up.

A clothes rail, two mike stands, and a scant selection of props, reminiscent of a fancy-dress shop were used with simple elegance by Foster, Kupe and Mayhoub, transforming into some clearly drawn characters as part of the ensemble.

Continue reading “Review: 4**** Romea & Julian The Bread & Roses @RomeaAndJulian @BreadandRosesTC”

Review: 5***** Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre #BenWishaw, #MichelleFairley @davemorrissey64 #DavidCalder #DoThis @_bridgetheatre

Tweetingit: 5* Just witnessed a stroke of genius. A timeless story of power that never dates. In the words of Caesar “Do this!”

Friends, Romans, fellow countrymen, lend me your ears! So very apt, I felt obliged to quote Mark Antony in this handsome production of Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre. A new kid on the block always has something to prove, and this new venue throws the gauntlet down to West End theatres.  julius-caesarOpened in late 2017 at a cost of £12 million, it can boast the most innovative and adaptable performance area. The theatre itself has a bright facade with the ‘I’ leaning nonchalantly against the ‘D’ in its signage. The foyer is spacious and brightly lit which provides a welcoming glow.  The first innovation was driven more by necessity as we noted the requirement to surrender all coats and bags prior to entry. It was a sad, though timely, reminder of the times in which we live.  Strangely, I felt able to relax more easily as there were no nagging doubts about security.

Continue reading “Review: 5***** Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre #BenWishaw, #MichelleFairley @davemorrissey64 #DavidCalder #DoThis @_bridgetheatre”

Review – 4**** Shook up Shakespeare Presents: Holiday Humour, Phoenix Artists Club @ShookUpShakes @phoenixartistcb

#Tweetingit – 4**** Cross dressing, rapping characters set Shakespeare in a whole new light.  The Bard would have approved!

A short walk from Tottenham Court Road tube station, I easily found the Phoenix Artists Club tucked quite logically beneath the Phoenix Theatre.  It immediately had the feel of a cosy, after hours private drinking club.  A long straight bar is decorated with signed photographs of various performers, CqePHxlW8AA7Hzmwho have no doubt dropped in for a swift half over the years. Obscured by a black velvet curtain, I was convinced the performance area would be no bigger that a postage stamp. The venue grew crowded and increasingly stuffy as the start time approached.  Once inside, the audience struggled to get comfortable; some people had obviously been shopping, while another couple insisted on bringing their foldaway bikes in with them. However, we all got comfortable and a highly entertaining show started at 6pm.

Continue reading “Review – 4**** Shook up Shakespeare Presents: Holiday Humour, Phoenix Artists Club @ShookUpShakes @phoenixartistcb”

Review: 4**** Much Ado About Nothing @FactionTheatre @Selfridges

 

After trawling through the sale rails in Oxford Street what better way to end the afternoon then with some fashion forward Shakespeare? image46

Selfridges have launched an in-store theatre – The reFASHIONed Theatre to mark the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death. Theatregoers will find themselves clearly among a fashion crowd as they are ushered into the 100 seater space by a Damien Lewis look alike,
once seated the traverse staging (fittingly reminiscent of a catwalk) provides some excellent people watching with an audience more suited to watching Marc Jacobs Fall Collection than the most performed Shakespeare comedy.

Continue reading “Review: 4**** Much Ado About Nothing @FactionTheatre @Selfridges”

Review: 3*** Shook Up Shakespeare: Midsummer Madness @rosemarybranch @ShookUpShakes

#Tweetingit –3*** Shakespeare in a modern beat style, free sweeties and a party hat? Grab those ping pong balls and watch them go! 

Shook Up Shakespeare does pretty much what it says on the tin.  Helen Watkinson and Roseanna Morris set the company up in 2015 to approach the works of Shakespeare with a new sense of playfulness, irreverence and spontaneity; and in the process alter perceptions of both actors and the audience.  A major part of this ethos aims to recreate the spirit of ashookup2-1.jpg Shakespearian playhouse, rowdy and brash with a festive atmosphere; and that’s what Midsummer Madness achieves with a five strong cast playing female characters from the Bard’s plays.  Elizabeth Menabney plays Adriana from the Comedy of Errors; Phoebe Rhodes is Olivia from Twelfth Night; Madelyn Smedley takes on the role of Portia from the Merchant of Venice; while Genevieve Berkeley-Steele plays Beatrice from Much Ado about nothing; and Melissa Vaughan becomes emcee in the guise of Faerie Queene from A Midsummer night’s Dream.

Continue reading “Review: 3*** Shook Up Shakespeare: Midsummer Madness @rosemarybranch @ShookUpShakes”

Richard III, St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden – Review

 

#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters: 4* Winter of discontent + my kingdom for a horse = Richard III alfresco style.

 

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The Iris Theatre could not have picked a better home than St Paul’s Church for their interactive, immersive approach to Shakespeare’s work. Built by stage designer Inigo Jones, the church has a sense of majesty that naturally lends itself to the gripping tale of Richard III. With its combination of historical fact and dramatic licence, the story reads like a Hollywood blockbuster complete with roman numerals in its title. However, a movie scriptwriter would struggle to invent such a heady mix of ambition, betrayal and revenge.

The action begins with the final scene from Henry VI Part 3 where Prince Edward, heir apparent is slaughtered at the Battle of Tewkesbury. This sets in motion a train of events charting Richard’s pursuit of power and ultimately, the throne of England. The audience are led through the gardens to view individual scenes as the story develops. Much of the action takes place in front of the main church doors with teasing glimpses of a wonderful interior. The story cranks up a gear with the death of Edward IV and accession of his 12 year old son Edward. Richard is charged with care of his nephews, the uncrowned Edward V and younger brother Richard. With the Princes safely ensconced in the Tower, Richard machinates with cohorts Sir William Catesby, Duke of Buckingham and Lord Stanley. The audience enter the church to eavesdrop their deliberations. The interior has an awe inspiring splendour that lets us believe we are in 15th Century London; unlike exterior scenes, where passing jets and car alarms annoyingly break the atmosphere.

Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville is soon declared invalid, leaving his successors without right to the throne. Seemingly, there is nothing standing in the way of Richard’s kingship. He is crowned in 1483 and the Princes mysteriously disappear from the Tower. However, storm clouds are gathering as fragile alliances crumble and Richard faces rebellion. As the sun set on a perfect summer evening we were summoned to encampment at Bosworth. Richard prepared to do battle with the army of Henry Tudor, his rival to the throne. The audience became Richard’s warriors as he issued a clarion call to arms. We all rushed to view the exciting fight scenes. I suddenly thought, where’s my sword? I want to give Henry Tudor a good thrashing! Assuming he was the bad guy? In such turbulent times how could anyone judge when the lines of morality continually blurred. Richard is one of the most misrepresented figures in British history and continually divides opinion. However, history can only be as truthful as the person writing it. Richard was no better or worse than his contemporaries.

The cast was magnificent in their respective roles, unfazed by heavy costumes which must have been stifling in the heat. David Hywel Baynes was excellent as the scheming, murderous Richard. By curious paradox, he was also quite likable, enjoying a lively rapport with the audience. Some of the cast doubled up in cross gender roles. For example, Mark Hawkins was particularly good as the cocksure Sir William Catesby and truly scary spectre of Queen Margaret; Dafydd Gwyn Howells was a commanding Henry VI and matronly Duchess of York. Space doesn’t allow me to name check the entire cast but Laura Wickham was mesmerising as Queen Elizabeth, grieving for her lost Princes.

My only real qualm concerned seating arrangements in the performance area. There was invariably a mad scramble as the show moved around the venue. People jostled each other for the best seats which seemed unnecessary. Staff set out deck chairs as it became obvious that older members of the audience needed to sit down. Patrons lugging bags of shopping around seemed to further exacerbate the problem.

The Iris Theatre deserve a massive hi-five for making Shakespeare sexy. Some might say it always has been, but this show makes the Bard’s work just that bit more accessible. An excellent programme also provides a much needed aide memoire to a tangled period of Britain’s history. At 3 hours 20 minutes, Richard III is Shakespeare’s second longest play. I didn’t notice the time until the show finished – that’s the hallmark of a great production. 

Author: William Shakespeare

Director: Daniel Winder

Producer: Tara Finney

Box Office: 020 8144 1898

Booking link: http://www.iristheatre.com/Contents/IrisShows/NewStylePage/richard-iii/richard-iii.html#tickets

Booking until: 25 July 2014