smallhobbit: (Cat)
We booked tickets to see The Alchemist at the same time as we booked for Doctor Faustus, so I was hoping this would be a better experience.  Once more we were in our favourite seats in the Swan Theatre of the RSC - Gallery Two, front row in the middle, directly opposite the musicians' gallery.

The play, by Ben Jonson, was extremely entertaining.  The actors, as ever, were of a high standard.  SM found following the rapid speech at times difficult, but I had no problem.  No one actor stood out in particular, but the ensemble worked very well together.

It was an very enjoyable afternoon.  There was little moral to the story, although the presence of con artists not just at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but also now, was shown at the beginning, when the musicians played not only music from the time, but moved into themes from amongst others The Sting and The A-Team.  Then the final bows were taken by the actors in modern dress, when they had been acting in contemporary costumes.

Possibly not one of the plays which will be top of my list in my year's review, but a great way to spend a couple of hours transported to another location, in this case, Blackfriars in London in 1610.

Queen Anne

Dec. 18th, 2015 08:16 pm
smallhobbit: (Cat)
SM said he fancied going up to Stratford-upon-Avon either before Christmas or during the Christmas period so I had a look to see what was on that we hadn't seen (we saw Wendy & Peter Pan two years ago) at a time we could go.  And there was a matinée performance of Queen Anne, so last week I booked tickets.

This is a new play by Helen Edmundson, which looks at the relationship between Princess, and then Queen, Anne and Sarah Churchill and how it effects others in politics around them.  I knew little about that era, and having read slightly more since seeing the play, I realise it is, unsurprisingly, simplified, but none the less compelling.  It shows Queen Anne growing from being dominated by Sarah Churchill to taking charge of her role herself.

This was the understudy performance, so all tickets were £10 - excellent value.  The RSC runs their company so that everyone, except the most important characters, understudy someone higher up the chain.  This means if one actor does fall sick the show can go on.  And, in appreciation of all the work required, and so friends and family can see people in their understudy roles, they put on an understudy performance of every play.  It can have the consequence of one actor who is understudying two characters having to act opposite themself, which did happen right at the beginning, but just provided some extra entertainment.  And equally, some of the lowest, generally non-speaking, parts don't have cover, so there were a few stand-ins who weren't in costume.

But none of this mattered.  It was excellent.  It was theatre at its best.  I didn't know any of the actors, which is quite unusual, normally I've seen one or two elsewhere.  But it was totally enthralling; the cast we saw could have been the main cast.  There was one point where the actress playing Sarah Churchill forgot her lines and had to rely on the prompt, but everyone forgave her.  (And of course she not only has her main part, plus understudy part, but she's in the play which is running in repetoire with this, no doubt with both main and understudy roles).

Normally I would pick out one or two actors who I particularly liked, but on this occasion I'd go for four: Daisy Ashford (Anne); Jenny Rainsford (Abigail Hill); Anna Tierney (Sarah Churchill) and Carl Prekopp (Robert Harley).  Excellent theatre.
smallhobbit: (Cat)
I know, it's not that long since I last looked at them, but there are things to celebrate, so:

Goal 1 - Carry on writing all the things.

It helped having something specific I wanted to write, which turned into two specifics.

And by the end of November I'd written 129,753 words, so I've passed my basic goal of 120,000 for the year.  With my 12 Days of Christmas fics, plus [ profile] fan_flashworks amnesty challenge coming up I think I should reach about 140,000.

Goal 2 - Read more and widely.

Still going strong. I should be posting another book review by the end of the week.

Goal 3 - More theatre.

Um, oops!  SM said he wanted to go to Stratford-upon-Avon before/during Christmas and lo and behold there were tickets for Queen Anne when we could go.  And then it struck me, in February I am staying in London overnight with the daughter, and it would be a waste not to see something, she agreed, so we have tickets for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.  And finally Andrew Scott is in a play at the moment and I had one free Saturday in January.  All Saturdays in January are now busy ;)

Henry V

Oct. 18th, 2015 06:12 pm
smallhobbit: (Cat)
My friend D and I have been slowly working our way through the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of the history plays.  The cycle began in November 2013 and has now reached Henry V, so of course we had to go.  If anyone is planning on seeing this at the Barbican, there will be spoilers ahead.  If anyone is thinking about seeing it at the Barbican - do it!

From the very beginning, when Oliver Ford Davies came onto the stage as the Chorus, I had the feeling this was going to be a good production.  His ability to set the scene was excellent and throughout he engaged not only with the audience, but with the other actors.  When he introduced the action in Harfleur, he threw a fire cracker (or something happened with similar effect) which exploded with a loud bang - D held her programme in front of her face to protect herself.  Towards the end, before the battle of Agincourt, the Chorus begins the introduction and the French knights all shouted at him to "Push Off!"

The play didn't feel rushed, but at the same time the action kept going.  Alex Hassell, as Henry V, was excellent.  I had liked him as Prince Hal in Henry IV and his portrayal of the king tied in well with what he had been as a young man.  He conveyed both the confidence of the warrior, but at the same time the doubts and the concerns of someone with the responsibility for so many lives.

I really liked the way the two major kingly speeches were made.  In "Once more unto the breach" Henry rushes onto the stage believing he is leading his troops on, but turns and finds no-one there.  So he makes his speech to the audience, appealling to his hearers to follow him, all the time while he's gasping for breath.  Then, having finished the speech, he turns back and heads towards Harfleur, the rest of the cast rushing down the voms to follow him.  It was definitely the sort of inspirational speech one would look for in that situation.  Equally the St Crispin speech was powerfully made and totally convincing.

Having been slightly disappointed at the last few plays I've been to, this production totally made up for it.  Highly recommended.


Aug. 23rd, 2015 06:06 pm
smallhobbit: (Cat)
SM and I both received emails from the RSC with the trailer for Volpone and both independently decided we wanted to go - so it just remained to book tickets on a date we could both go.  (And when they had suitable tickets available - it's been very popular).

It was staged in the Swan Theatre, which I am growing more and more fond of.  A smaller theatre than the main theatre, it has a much more intimate feel, which suits many plays.  Volpone was written by Ben Johnson and this production is in repetory with The Jew of Malta, which we saw earlier this year, and therefore has a good number of the same cast.

The play is in modern dress and makes good use of modern technology - one aspect I particularly liked was when the doorbell sounded a camera shot was displayed to show who was at the door.  When Volpone was pretending to be the mountebank his patter included mentions of Wayne Rooney and Berlusconi to great comic effect.  Like last week a performance where the updating worked extremely well.

Henry Goodman, who played Volpone, was brilliant.  I'm amazed I haven't seen him in anything else.  He plays Volpone as himself and also as three different characters, and each time it was hard to believe he was the same person.  The rest of the cast were equally good and the production was great fun throughout.  Most of the characters were larger than life, and it is a credit to the actors that they didn't slip into caricature.

An excellent afternoon, a fun play with some great acting.
smallhobbit: (Cat)
SM had been looking at the programme for the RSC and said he fancied seeing The Jew of Malta.  We compared their Saturday matinée dates with our combined calendars and discovered we could either go Easter Saturday or the end of August.  So, given a quite Easter weekend, we chose to have a day out in Stratford and see the play.

After the disappointment last weekend it was a joy to watch this production.  We were seated in the top gallery of the Swan Theatre (I had refused to pay what I think are becoming increasingly expensive ground level seats for a play I knew nothing about), which meant we were directly opposite the musicians, which was an added bonus - the music was excellent.  Despite being higher up the design of the theatre meant we still had an excellent view.

From the beginning of the play, when Machiavel, who comes on to say he sees religion as a childish toy, is wearing a t-shirt bearing the distinctive theatre logo but saying RMC in honour of the playwright, Christopher Marlowe, it was clear this was going to be a good production.  Jasper Britton was excellent througout; there were a couple of occasions where he stumbled over his words, but this was a rarity.  His interraction with the other characters enhanced them, and although there was never any sympathy for the Jew (as is intended), without knowing the plot it was gripping to see what would happen next.

The set piece where the battle is staged between the Turks and the Christians is stylised and almost a dance, conveying the idea that five actors truly are a whole army.  The music was incredibly effective throughout and enhanced the performance.  There's a great deal of action throughout the play - little time for character introspection - and we, the audience, were swept along.  A memorable performance.
smallhobbit: (Brutus)
I managed 21 plays this year, more than ever before.  This was because SM found a number of plays that he thought would be worth seeing, so I went to things I wouldn’t have chosen otherwise.  The full list:

21 plays and my thoughts on the year )

Richard II

Nov. 2nd, 2013 06:59 pm
smallhobbit: (Richard II)
Okay, before anyone says anything, I know that is Ben Whishaw, not David Tennant, but it is Richard II.

I went to Stratford-on-Avon yesterday to see Richard II with a group of friends.  The sell out version with David Tennant as the eponymous king.  (I've always wanted to use eponymous).

I have to admit to have been slightly dubious, because while I like DT as an actor, he seems to have certain mannerisms when on stage and I wondered whether they would be present.  They weren't.  Some of the things he said early on might have been humourous, a few in the audience laughed, but weren't really.  And he had hair extensions.  No, he didn't detract from the play, but neither did he make it.  And I felt he failed to show the change in the character as his situation changes.  To me there should be a pathos in Richard at the end of the play which I don't think he conveyed.

I first saw Richard II in Bristol at the Tobacco Factory, with John Heffernan in the lead role.  He was excellent.  I cared about his character at the end; with DT's I didn't.  I haven't as yet read any reviews, so no doubt will find that I'm at odds with everyone else, but that's my opinion.

The actor I did like was Nigel Lindsay, who played Henry Bolingbroke; he was entirely convincing, both as the banished subject and then as the man who had the ability to lead the country. The music was excellent, both the singing and the instrumental parts.  The staging was minimal, but the opening set, which looked like the interior of a cathedral was impressive.

We went to the Unwrapped this morning, in which three of the actors, plus the assistant director took us through how a scene is put together.  They acted the same scene with different emphasis and really brought it to life.  And brought back some of the excitement of live theatre.

The next part of the history cycle, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, are on at the RSC next summer and my friend and I are planning to go.


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