Hello duckies! It’s been ages but rest assured I am still here and still plugging away at the Shakespeare… The last thing I went to see was Ian McKellen’s (surprisingly long) UK tour, which was a lovely evening of a very talented man reminiscing and (entirely justifiably!) showing off.
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.
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.
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.**
Antic Disposition – Grays Inn Hall
Photograph by Scott Rylander
Ah Much Ado. This was my fifth production in five years and it was every bit as enjoyable as all the others – no sign of fun-fatigue in the same way I think I might be getting misery-and-ambition fatigue (and still one more Macbeth to go this year, oh Lord!)
This was an Antic Disposition production in Grays Inn Hall, with an Anglo-French flavour similar to Henry V but luckily not at all harrowing. It was WW2, rather than WW1, which definitely helps. Messina was a town square, complete with bunting and tables (and an onstage bar which sold drinks – but only during the interval!). We saw the first night which came with the minor additional excitement of power cuts taking out the stage lights, and we were sat at a table in the bar, right in the action.