Another splendid evening this week in our local Picturehouse last week watching the RSC’s dazzling staging of The Tempest, featuring magnificent and memorable performances by Simon Russell Beale as Prospero and Mark Quartley as Ariel. This is the production that utilises performance capture technology from Imaginarium Studios to render Ariel’s animated avatar live in three dimensions on the Stratford stage. Brilliant as the special effects were, it was the acting which held us spellbound. Continue reading “The RSC’s high-tech Tempest: acting, poetry and technology spellbind together”
Nina is an outstanding one-woman show we saw this week at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool. It is a deeply personal tribute to Nina Simone by Josette Bushell-Mingo, the London-born actress and singer who is currently artistic director for the Swedish National Touring Theatre. As its full title – Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone – implies, and as became apparent minutes into this remarkable production, this is a personal meditation, laced with anger and bitterness, on the meaning of Simone’s music for another black woman. The show runs for another week and should not be missed. Continue reading “Josette Bushell-Mingo’s Nina at Unity Theatre: angry, beautiful, outstanding”
For the first time, we overcame scepticism and joined a packed house at FACT, our local Picturehouse to watch the RSC production of King Lear streamed live from Stratford. It was a revelation; we were completely blown away by the experience, which was not at all like watching TV but instead felt totally immersive, like being there in the audience and on stage at the same time. I particularly appreciated being able to hear every word spoken and see details of costumes and facial expressions of the actors.
All of which is merely a preamble to praise for the production itself: Anthony Sher was outstanding as Lear, while the entire cast burned just as bright. Directed by Gregory Doran, the staging and costumes were magnificent, making this a truly memorable production of the Shakespeare play I have seen more times than any other. Continue reading “Anthony Sher dazzles in the RSC’s King Lear“
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, written between 1589 and 1593, is believed to have been Shakespeare’s first play – and, boy, does it show. It didn’t make much of an impression when first performed, and rare revivals in recent times have generally not been very well-received.
Last week we saw the Liverpool Everyman and Shakespeare’s Globe co-production which did a decent job of creating an entertaining and thought-provoking evening’s entertainment – but only by setting the action in 1966, hacking the text, and subverting Shakespeare’s happy-ever-after ending which leaves a modern audience feeling decidedly nauseous. It’s certainly the first time that I have come away from a Shakespeare production feeling that my main criticism of the play would be the text! Continue reading “The Two Gentlemen of Verona: steal and attempt to rape my girl, but what the hell, we can still be friends”
And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.
There are reasons, I guess, why I am so bewitched by Shakespeare’s pastoral dramas, notably the great good fortune of an untrammelled fifties childhood in rural Cheshire, and then coming of age amidst the swirl of hippie values in the sixties – waving the flag for peace and love, rejecting materialism, and yearning to get back to nature.
The pastoral vision of a lost world of innocence and the simpler life of the countryside, with its potential for love and renewal, flowered in this year’s production of As You Like It at Chester’s open air Grosvenor Park Theatre. In the last few years it’s become a summer Shakespeare ritual for me and my daughter to chance the English weather and take our seats in the terraces (some covered, others not) of this theatre in the round. Continue reading “As You Like It in Chester’s Grosvenor Park: magical despite the rain”
Another day, yet another atrocity hurled from the maelstrom of conflict in the Middle East, the turmoil which has also resulted in over half of Syria’s people being killed or forced to flee their homes to become refugees. In the evening I attend a performance at the Liverpool Everyman of Queens of Syria, a remarkable touring production, performed by Syrian women from a refugee camp in Amman, which weaves the women’s own stories of exile and war into passages from the ancient Greek play The Trojan Women, theatre’s earliest dramatisation of the plight of women in war.
Earlier this week I watched the BBC documentary trilogy, Exodus: Our Journey to Europe, which told the stories of some of the refugees in last year’s huge movement of people fleeing disaster – on dinghies crossing from Turkey to Greece, along the migrant trail through the Balkans, and in the Jungle at Calais – filmed along the way by those same people on mobile phones.
After a referendum campaign which seemed to establish the expression of racist or anti-immigrant sentiment as respectable once more, these three films gave voice to those who have truly lost their homeland, in stark contrast to those in this country who, having ‘wanted to get their country back’, now truly believe that’s what they have achieved. Continue reading “Stories of exile: Queens of Syria, Exodus and the Very Quiet Foreign Girls’ Poetry Group”
We’re not making a sacrifice. Jesus, you’ve seen this war. We are the sacrifice.
On 1 July 1916, 2,069 men of the 36th Ulster Division were among the among the 19,000 British soldiers killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. That day was also the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, and some of the men of the 36th went over the top wearing orange sashes.
With the centenary of the Somme less than two weeks away, it was apt to have the chance of seeing a revival of Frank McGuinness’s great war play Observe The Sons Of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme at the Playhouse in Liverpool – especially as this was a co-production of Headlong, Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, and the Everyman. Continue reading “Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme”
Finally, after inordinate delays, the Chilcot report on the Iraq War is close to publication. Myself, I’m not holding my breath. After years of lies and obfuscation, why expect it to provide a genuine critique of the process that led us into an illegal war? Nevertheless, I went along to the Lowry Studio in Salford to see Chilcot, Richard Norton-Taylor’s dramatisation of some of the exchanges during the Iraq Inquiry hearings. Continue reading “Chilcot at the Lowry Studio: secrecy and deceit”
Filter Theatre’s Twelfth Night, seen on Saturday at Theatre Clwyd, is like no other production of Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy you have ever seen. Purists might hate it, but Filter’s radically-cut, fast-paced version of the play is hugely enjoyable, and every word is the Bard’s. At little more than 90 minutes this is a distilled essence of Twelfth Night. The audience in Mold loved it. Continue reading “Filter Theatre’s riotous Twelfth Night“
Conrad Nelson’s production of The Winter’s Tale for Northern Broadsides is the most stripped-back production I’ve seen. We saw it performed in the round at the New Victoria Theatre in Stoke where the stage was bare, but for an occasional bench or something similar.
The result is to focus attention on Shakespeare’s words and symbolism – and on the quality of the acting which, as always with Northern Broadsides, was very high indeed with notable performances by Conrad Nelson himself in the role of Leontes, Ruth Alexander as Paulina, Mike Hugo as Autolycus, and Jessica Dyas and Lauryn Redding as the sparring peasant girls Mopsa and Dorcas. Continue reading “A stripped-back Winter’s Tale from Northern Broadsides”
The production at Liverpool Playhouse of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie that my daughter took me to see on Saturday was slated in the Observer. In her review Clare Brennan wrote that ‘Ellen McDougall’s direction constrains 3D actors in a 2D concept’. She went on:
Context matters. In this new co-production by Headlong, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, and West Yorkshire Playhouse, it has been eradicated. We are left with a tight focus on individuals separated from the indicators of the circumstances that mould them.
I could not disagree more. Continue reading “Headlong’s The Glass Menagerie: ‘how beautiful, and how easily broken’”
‘This will never stop,’ writes playwright Anders Lustgarten in the introduction to his critically-acclaimed drama Lampedusa which, unflinchingly and without a trace of sentimentality, deals with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. I saw it last night at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre, co-producer of the play with the Soho Theatre, where it was first performed. Continue reading “Lampedusa: ‘Fucking hell. Why are people kind?’”