Archive for the ‘RSC Event Reviews’ Category

It was a delight, on Saturday, to watch and listen to the script/in/hand reading of The Hang of the Gaol in the wonderful Ashcroft Room. This superb play about corruption in a British prison so brilliantly written by Howard Barker was first performed by the RSC in 1978.

It never stops to amaze us how these readings can create such an enthralling atmosphere. This play, red/hot and not at risk of losing its topicality any time soon was no exception. Forbes Masson led the audience through hatred and sympathy with just the tiniest tilts of his voice but major kudos too to Stephanie Street and Rebecca Johnson and who could not love Matthew Wilson as Turk and Ricky Champ and Neal Barry, the two “Screws”. And wow to Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Sam Alexander and Oliver Ryan fabulous performances. Yes, it was great to listen to both of them, who together with Joseph Arkley and naturally Forbes were recent Ensemble actors here.

We were also impressed with John Stahl as the Home Secretary and keep asking ourselves who this was meant to be. Who was HS at the time? It was a really good idea to have this on at the same time as Marat Sade which we recommend. Thank you RSC

by David and Ingrid (Stevens)

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So many things to go and see in just one Saturday

In the morning there was Cardenio Unwrapped (at the Swan) where Nicky Cox introduced the Assistant Director of Cardenio, Ben Brymor and the two understudy actors for the characters of Cardenio and Lucinda – Mike Grady-Hall and Maya Barcot. We were told, that in rehearsals, Greg Doran had initially asked all the cast the read the lines apart from their own. So by the time they learnt their own lines each actor knew the play and everyone else’s part – so to speak. This has created great harmony amongst the Ensemble and indeed I have been told by Nick Day a seasoned actor that it is the happiest Ensemble he has ever had the pleasure to work with in his many years in the business.

Ben really set the tone of the day by asking the actors to act with three different interpretations of an early scene in the play between the two characters and we were invited to determine which we thought was be the best option and how a different approach can give an audience a different view and indeed sympathy to the character. Here was a scene where Lucinda was rightly angry with her lover for his not yet informing his father of their relationship. Use of the Thrust stage and the audience intimacy was discussed and one of the interpretations where the actors spoke to the audience rather than to each other only made a big difference and sympathy was somewhat switched back to Cardenio. The question of how more advantageous the thrust stage and closeness of the audience to the stage had a bearing on a Soliloquy where here the actor would speak to the audience rather than himself. Mike presented a Soliloquy from Cardenio with panache.

Finally Maya and two dressers gave a Quick Dress change on stage. It was very brave of all three of them and extremely well done. As Ben said, Dressers are the unsung heroes of the theatre so well done ladies. Just makes one anxious to go and see this wonderful production again.

Cardenio is on until October 6th.

POPPY – The Mark Ravenhill weekend started with the first of two plays he was directing in the Swan Rooms at 2pm. The author Peter Nichols who also wrote the lyrics to the music and the award winning composer, Monty Norman, who wrote the music were present. Indeed Monty joined in one of the songs with great gusto.

This script-in-hand performance of the musical set during the Opium Wars (1840s) has won awards. An important element of the play is audience participation, which brings them closer not only to the play’s fantastic world, but also to the satire that follows later on – a critical look at corruption within our social, political and religious systems i.e. Civilization, Commerce and Christianity (they all belong together and they all begin with C). This was also a great song that stuck in one’s head but left a sweet and sour taste in our mouths.

It is a kind of adult pantomime, but dark and certainly an irreverent story. Marvellous reading by the actors- in particular Ciaron Kellgren, Sally Dexter and Jill Halfpenny. But all actors and musicians were outstanding. A fantastic way to spend the afternoon and it was good fun for everyone present. The cast certainly appeared to enjoy themselves.

FASHION – So back we went for more delight at 7pm for another script in hand play reading. Again this was curated by Mark Ravenhill and again we were privileged to have the author, Doug Lucie present.This play was premiered at The Other Place in 1987; sadly I did not see it because of my then nomadic life. Alan Armstrong and Brian Cox were in the original production. But you know this play could have been written yesterday; it was really proof of the fact that most people do not take heed of what goes on around them. Basically it is a satire about the world of political spin where an advertising boss bids for the task of re-modelling the Conservative party, prior to an election.

Both Murdoch and the female person who was PM in the 80s were somehow well and truly part of the story. With an excellent cast including Sally Dexter, Joe Dixon, Jill Halfpenny, John Gordon Sinclair, Paul Hickey and Ciaran Kellgren we were left, in no doubt, that if we listened to our playwrights more perhaps some of the problems of this world would not be there. Personally I was delighted how they responded to Thatcherism.

Our recent difficulties were cradled at a time when individual greed was encouraged where humanitarian issues were corroded and this marvellous satire brings the message home. Oh that we had listened then. Congratulations to Doug Lucie, and well done Mark Ravenhill and your outstanding actors. Thank you Team RSC.

David Stevens

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We went to the Opening Performance on the 14th April, 2011 and loved every moment of the production. Such inspirational casting- Lucy Briggs-Owen and Oliver Rix. I was really impressed by Christopher Godwin as Don Camillo. The music was wonderful and what a beautiful ending with music and dance. Well done Greg Doran. Our thanks to you for re-imagining the “lost play”, a fantastic achievement. This was a really memorable evening and a superb way to celebrate the re-opening of the lovely Swan Theatre.

……..And so we went to see Cardenio again on the Saturday evening, having so enjoyed the wonderful and informative talk by Greg Doran in the morning to Friends. It was even better the second time and sitting in a different part of the theatre appreciated even more the performance of Pippa Nixon as Dorotea. Superb.

People go the theatre for different reasons, hopefully to enjoy the performance. Certainly we did with Cardenio. Fully recommend it. We will go again!

by David Stevens, RSC Friends

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A Birthday Treat.


“What is he doing with that sword?”

One of the Newcastle Friends of the RSC was asking a question regarding  the costume of another friend who was about to give a recitation at the annual Friends Shakespeare Birthday Party celebration.  The said celebration was held at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle Upon Tyne, in the foyer of the Gallery where at 10.30am the Friends gathered to entertain each other by presenting their favourite readings in literature, via  a comic performance of a play, a self composed poem or a recitation from the works of the Bard himself.

On this occasion, the topics included a vigourous reading of a poem on St.George when the sword was a colourful addition, David a regular member of the Friends provided the speech. Then a member read the speech to the players in ‘Hamlet’, advising them to ….

“Speak the speech……trippingly on the tongue”.

Was he hinting at something.

One member Anne Marie motored to the front of the gathered group and  with great aplomb, read comments by Laurence Oliver on playing King Lear.  This was well applauded.

There was also a medieval ballad sung by one of the Friends.

Then the famous Director’s Role which one Friend Liz made an annual event was commenced. Here the Director of the ‘Byer Players’ gives comical instructions to the actors of ‘Hamlet’, the audience, i.e. The Friends of the RSC  are the audience.

“you can’t use the  hot water bottle Bill,  it does not make the battlements look freezing”,

This is a typical instruction to Horatio. Puck concluded the show, and we all then made our way to the Oliver Suite for the toast to the Bard. With a piece of cake in hand and a glass of wine or orange juice, Yvonne Richardson gave the toast, while a photograph of Shakespeare and a bunch of red roses  completed the scene.

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On a cold and snowy morning in early January a hardy group of RSC Friends met with Dominic Cooke, the Director of the RSC’s Christmas hit Arabian Nights. As those present soon realised I am a huge fan of Dominic’s productions and this show is no exception. We covered the staging of the show, the exquisite costumes and excellant casting; the great success Dominic has enjoyed as Artistic Director at the Royal Court (and why did I go on holiday and miss the opportunity of seeing Jerusalem with one of my all time favourites Mark Rylance) and touched on why British theatre deserves to be publically funded. As usual the hour flew by and it was time to brave the pavements of Stratford Old Town. I really hope that Arabian Nights will reappear next Christmas at a stage near you and look forward to future delights from Dominic!

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