I need to be a bit careful here to separate my impressions of the actual show from the (entirely serendipitous, I am not that good at planning) Q&A session with some of the cast and the Assistant Director afterwards, in terms of what I took away from what they did.*
The most important thing to note is that this production is stripped back – in almost every sense. A neat 100 minute running time (no interval) was just the start – the actors performed in a square box, riveted metal, which didn’t even have a single door (they all stayed on stage the whole time), the only props were some six or so buckets (about which more later), the costumes were simple shirts and trousers in uniformly dark colours, and there was little (but not quite nothing) in the way of sound and lighting effects.
Well, the end of 2018 is a bit of a milestone for this blog. I am the end of five years of my ten year Shakespeare New Year Resolution. Half way through. So as well as rounding up the last year, I’m doing a little more thinking about the project as a whole – what it has meant to me, and what I might still try and do with it. Not all of that thinking will necessarily make it into this blog – but rest assured it is happening!
The National Theatre managed to significantly redeem itself here and prove that this spring’s Macbeth was a blot on an otherwise impressive run of thoughtful and striking Shakespeare adaptations which bring the star power of their cast to bear on the greats.
Who will believe thee, Isabelle?
Bear with me, gentle reader, as I try to do something a little different in this review of the Donmar Warehouse production of Measure for Measure. You can take it as read that the staging, lighting, music and so on were all as excellent as you might expect, and I’ll probably get to the performances in due course. But this production was clearly designed to make a bold statement about gender and power imbalances, and that’s an area in which it is impossible as a woman not have an interest.
The Young Vic Theatre
Photo by Johan Persson
It can sometimes be more difficult to review a show you didn’t like than one you – just repeating “I loved it” four hundred times might feel proportionate but not very informative for the reader. Lucky, then, that the Young Vic’s musical Twelfth Night was both brilliant and surprisingly meaty.
RSC at the Barbican
So I deliberately chose to see the two big-hitting Macbeths this year (the RSC and the National) to see what there was by way of a contrast, and on reflection it feels to me that maybe contrasts was what this production was all about.
I hadn’t felt up to tackling another Lear after the National’s electrifying production with Simon Russell Beale, all the way back in 2014*. But having heard so many good things about other Chichester Festival productions, and being a bit of an Ian McKellen fan, I decided this was a production I couldn’t, or maybe shouldn’t, miss.**