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Archive for the ‘Introducing Shakespeare’ Category

I am not one for rushing time away, but we cannot escape the fact that it is seven weeks to Christmas. Our splendid shop at The Courtyard (and I am sure we are ALL looking forward to the new shop in our new theatre) provides a wealth of  ideas for gifts and stocking fillers, especially when it comes to books.

At present, you may purchase three of the finest books available written about acting, and especially for the RSC. They are:

YEAR OF THE KING by Sir Antony Sher – a now classic account of  preparation and rehearsals for Richard III during the 1984 season, as well as some insights into other roles such as the Fool and Tartuffe.

EXIT PURSUED BY A BADGER by Nick Asbury – a marvellous account of what it was like to be part of the Histories Ensemble during 2006/8.

SOMETHING WRITTEN IN THE STATE OF DENMARK by Keith Osborn -an equally fascinating account of playing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and Love’s Labour’s Lost during the 2008 season.

What you have in these outstanding  books is a wonderful insight into being part of the RSC at a particular time in the history of the Company plus some fascinating “warts and all” anecdotes.

I DO hope that one of our current ensemble might have the time to eventually put pen to paper, as it were, to write a similar account of the past two seasons, not forgetting the one to come when we could have a historic account of  what it was like to be in the first productions of Shakespeare in the new RST.

Ah well, perhaps that is a treat in store. Meanwhile, the books already mentioned provide a treat ,and moments of pure nostalgia ,each time you dip into them. Buy them as seasonal gifts for those who love theatre and if YOU haven’t got copies, spoil yourself at the same time !

Tony Boyd-Williams

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A fitting description of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA by that legendary director of Shakespeare, Harley Granville-Barker. The text itself resembles what we might now see in a film script as it moves swiftly between Egypt and Rome and carries the actors and audience with it. A thrilling and at times humorous exploration of power politics and clashes of cultures, the stage of The Courtyard seems  especially tailor made for the next episode of our theatrical journey with the 2009/2011 ensemble.

Looking forward (as usual) to the previews, I find it strange to think that I did not actually see a performance of the play until the 1990’s when I saw the touring production with Vanessa Redgrave and David Harewood. Since 1999 I have seen every RSC offering and have vivid memories of Frances De La Tour/Alan Bates, Sinead Cusack/Stuart Wilson and Harriet Walter/Patrick Stewart.

Now with our present talented ensemble in their second season, we can relish the prospect of Michael Boyd’s forthcoming production with Kathryn Hunter/Darrell D’Silva. It will be fascinating to see Darrell continuing his striking and splendid Antony in JULIUS CAESAR and Kathryn following her equally splendid performance as the Fool, not forgetting her marvellous production of OTHELLO at Warwick Arts Centre last year.

The more I see the play the more I realise why Granville-Barker also spoke of it as “a great technical achievement and one of great artistry …” with a magnificence and magic all its own”. If anyone reading this has not yet seen a live performance of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, book your tickets now if you have not already done so.

by Tony Boyd-Williams, Volunteer Theatre Tour Guide, RSC Friends, Stratford

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We took our two daughters to their first Shakespeare in 2008 – Taming of the Shrew in Stratford – for my 40th birthday.  Since then, we have continued to gently expose them to a little Shakespeare at a time.  Last year it was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest (both RSC productions) and As you like it (at The Globe) and this weekend was the RSC’s current production of Twelfth Night.

For my 12-year-old daughter who studied The Tempest last year and who is now studying Twelfth Night, the plays are giving her an added insight and understanding into what she is learning at school.  For my 11-year-old daughter who is about to start learning about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, much of what she has seen has been about spectacle and you can’t get better than the RSC for visual richness, diversity and pure entertainment.

I asked her to write for the blog about her experience of the Family workshop and production of Twelfth Night:

Twelfth Night - image by Ellie Kurttz

On Saturday 20th February, my mum and dad took my sister and myself to the Duke of York theatre to see Twelfth Night. I am only 11 years old, in Year 6, and I have not read the play, although my sister is studying it in English. We went to a family workshop at 11am, where the actor who plays Feste, Miltos Yerolemou, the actress who is the understudy to Viola, Maya Wasowicz, and a lady from the RSC who organises events, showed us how the lighting and sound effects could completely change the mood, place and time of the scene, without the actual set being changed. Then they got nine of us to volunteer to go up on stage and act out the play as they explained it to us. I played the part of Viola, or Cesario, and I really enjoyed it!!!!!!!

The matinee was at 2pm. I found the Shakespearian language a little hard to understand, so I found the workshop helped me a lot, as I could understand better what was going on, even if I couldn’t make head nor tail of the words spoken!!! I found that the rooftop scene, with Feste, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch was really funny and enjoyable. I was aching with laughter at the scene where Malvolio (Richard Wilson, Gaius in Merlin) finds the letter, and Sir Toby Belch, Fabian and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are in the tree. But I almost fell off my seat in hysterics when I saw Malvolio in yellow stockings and cross garters!!!

I totally loved it, and I was very disappointed when it was over. I was the only one in the audience standing up when we were clapping, and as we were in the fifth row back, I got a special smile from all the actors!!

By Samantha Nead

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A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to be invited to see the Young People’s Shakespeare production of Hamlet at Claremont School in Harrow during its two week tour of London state schools.

I sat amongst journalists, patrons, RSC staff and associates and watched a large group of girls and boys in Year Seven (first year seniors) soak up a dynamic and vibrant production.  They were then given the opportunity to ask questions and to work with the actors on understanding scene setting, how to convey mood with sounds and finally acting out Hamlet’s first scene with the ghost.

YPS Hamlet. Images by Hugo Glendinning

There was a surprisingly small amount of fidgeting and the children threw themselves whole-heartedly into the workshop, the hall was buzzing with enthusiasm and excitement.  Those children who were chosen (hands up straining to be seen “pick me, pick me!”) to act out the scene with the ghost acquitted themselves admirably receiving cheers, ‘high fives’ from the RSC ensemble actors and general applause from the audience.

It was wonderful to see so many children really getting to grips with one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and I thoroughly enjoyed Tarell McCraney’s 80-minute adaptation.  It was interesting to see how McCraney brought the play into context for these pre-teens who appeared to be genuinely engaged in the performance.  Ophelia sang a contemporary pop song in her madness; dress was modern with black umbrellas used in abundance as swords, shields and camouflage; Osiric was fabulously camp; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were a modern Tweedledum and Tweedledee; and there was a definite feeling that the actors were ‘down’ with their audience.

The headmaster summed up what I am sure many of us felt when he said that the company had succeeded in genuinely demystifying Shakespeare by telling a good story well: “You can have the best product in the world but if you don’t have the best people delivering it, it’s pointless.”

I for one shall be booking to take my two daughters to the production when it shows at the RSC and then I shall introduce them to the full-length version with David Tennant.  Who could ask for a better introduction to Shakespeare’s tragedy?

By Jane Nead, RSC Friend, London

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