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Twelfth Night

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Photograph by Manuel Harlan.

Twelfth Night is probably the best loved of Shakespeare’s comedies and this production was well received by a delighted audience. The comic scenes are played with gusto and accompanied by meticulously researched music hall ditties that add to a distinctly upbeat and joyful production.

Chris Luscombe’s sumptuous and ingenious set is an engineering marvel and a perfect backdrop to Orsino’s world of aesthetic self absorption. The references to India and the mystical east in the rich costumes cleverly links the Raj and the hedonistic sensibilities of the aesthete.

Much fun is had with the confusion caused by Sebastian’s and Viola’s gender swap. The hesitation over the lovers sexual preferences at the play’s resolution is hilarious and provides a contemporary slant that would surely amuse the bard.

Phil Davis Q&A

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Photograph by Manuel Harlan

A warm and enthusiastic welcome, from a near to capacity crowd, greeted Phil Davis at this popular Friends event. Phil came across as a modest and self effacing man despite his remarkable achievement in being an actor for 46 years with many lauded performances to his credit.

Phil’s passion is for new writing in television, film and theatre. He had worked with great avant garde directors such as Joan Littlewood and Mike Leigh. He expounded on some of the techniques employed in method acting and explained how this enabled him to develop greater depth and originality in his work.

Phil acknowledged that he is mostly known for portraying villains which he believes are more interesting than romantic leads. He relishes in the description of on one critic that; ‘no one winces like Phil Davis!’

Phil is currently playing Scrooge in Christmas Carol. He explained that he wanted to get beyond the name, a euphemism for hard hearted miserliness and create something human, more than a caricature. It was interesting to hear how he prepared to go on stage by rehearsing an expression , or a way of standing. He revealed that the National Portrait Gallery often provided inspiration for the creation of a character.

A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting afternoon session.

A Christmas Carol

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Photograph by Manuel Harlan.

I took my four grandchildren to see Christmas Carol and they loved it. They are; Evie (11), Will (9) Tom (8), and Oliver (8). They said; ‘ it was spooky and had me on the edge of my seat’ (William) The scenery was brilliant, and I liked the old fashioned clothes.’ (Oliver), ‘I liked the changes from dark gloomy scenes to the light joyous scenes, especially the dancing.’ (Evie). ‘ the humourous characters were the best bits, especially Fezziwig and Scrooge’s nephew.'(Tom)

Imperium Part 2.

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Photograph by Ikin Yum.

A breathtaking production that builds wonderfully on Imperium 1. The action becomes faster, movement more fluid and hypnotic as the dramatic tension builds. It would be invidious to single out individual actors as this is a tour de force to which all contribute. The audience were overwhelmed by this excellent play as the sustained applause bore witness. I would urge you to buy tickets as soon as possible for this excellent production.

Imperium 1.

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Photograph by Ikin Yum.

Greg Doran’s Cicero play provides a powerful summary of his Roman season. Once again RSC examines the forces that threaten democracy and draws parallels with contemporary politics. Similarities are pointed up by seating part of the audience on stage where they become alternately an ad hoc senate or mob.

Cicero, master of rhetoric tries to save the Republic by exposing corruption and treason but is eventually compromised and called a hypocrite by populist politicians who cynically claim to be defenders of the poor.

Music and staging contribute hugely to this production by evoking the grandeur and pomp of Rome whilst also suggesting menace as the drums roll like peals of thunder. The stage is bathed in a bronze light, a scored and cratered sphere hangs above and the inscrutable eyes of a god or hero survey the unfolding tragedy.

Kim Hartman

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Photograph by Pete Le May.

Kim has enjoyed a long and successful career as an actor and director in theatre, television and cruise ship cabaret. She is probably best known for playing Private Helga in all 96 episodes of the enormously successful television comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo.

Kim’s season with the RSC came after an initial interview with Greg Doran followed by a 9 month wait while she wondered whether her previous season in pantomime was viewed positively in Stratford. In fact panto had been a perfect preparation for the part of Climax in the hugely popular farcical comedy ‘Vice Versa’.

A very different play was soon in the offing, Christopher Marlowe’s Dido Queen of Carthage. Kim described the part of nurse as ‘Climax after rehab!’ Kim gave us an insight into Marlowe’s awareness of the pain of unrequited love and the technical challenge of building a functioning water curtain on stage.

Kim’s busy schedule includes co ownership of Quinton Arts with her husband, director and actor John Nolan.She has worked in many West End productions as well as cabaret on cruise ships. The seven year full time commitment to ‘Allo ‘Allo is at an end and Kim is looking forward to a family Christmas before she returns to work in the theatre.

Coriolanus

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Photograph by Helen Maybanks.

Angus Jackson’s Coriolanus resonates with a contemporary audience producing disturbing parallels with the current political scene. Shakespeare seems even more prescient as this addition to this season of Roman plays progresses. This production emphasises the parellels with the zeitgeist in the initial scenes of urban unrest in modern dress set against a sparse grey set.

Coriolanus is lauded as a successful general but the populace turn against him as he uncompromisingly broadcasts his arrogant disregard for the poor and his refusal to soften his language inflames the populace. His family and friends try to mitigate the damage caused by this rough soldier who absolutely refuses to soften his utterances.

Exile inevitably follows but Coriolanus returns threatening vengeance and allies himself to his old enemy Tullus Aufidius. Volumnia, Coriolanus’s mother, pleads for mercy before the gates of besieged Rome. In the most affecting scenes of the play Coriolanus breaks down and promises a merciful and fair peace settlement for all parties. It is too late for Coriolanus, he has forfeited his power base, his family and friends are demoralised and defeated he is assassinated by his former rival. A cautionary tale for dictators and demagogues.