Posts Tagged ‘Antony and Cleopatra’

23rd February to 2nd April were marvellous weeks in RSC History. The productions of KING LEAR and ROMEO AND JULIET on our new main stage deservedly received great acclaim as did the brilliant restaging by Michael and his company of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA in the Swan. The final performance of that production was indeed a night to be proud of and to remember.

However, there were more treats in store. The YPS productions of HAMLET and THE COMEDY OF ERRORS were successfully revived, with much praise from the older members of the audiences in addition to that from the youngsters present. Both productions confirmed the riches and strengths of our 2009-2011 ensemble and underlined what splendid results are obtained when  a company stays together for such a period of time.

Secondly, this hugely talented company allowed us to see them in an entirely different light when they gave us THE RSC ENSEMBLE REVEALED. And then as if to crown it all, we had two further sensational staging’s – THE TEMPEST (a welcome return of Little Angel Theatre in association with the RSC ) and the first RSC Studio production -THE RAPE OF LUCRECE. Now this makes a total of eight events in our theatres in just over five weeks!! Certainly, a fitting start to the momentous year of our 50th Birthday Celebrations.

However, all this was just the beginning. As I write this, the ensemble are back in London for a season of new work prior to their visit to New York and the first members of our new acting ensemble are settling down with us and the previews of Macbeth and Cardenio are well under way. These early performances are proving most enjoyable, exciting and a first  rate start to the new productions which are marking our 50th Birthday Season. We are being treated to yet more outstanding acting/technical talent as well as fantastic direction from Michael and Greg.

If any readers have not yet booked for these productions, then I advise a visit to our hard working Box Office colleagues as quickly as possible. And the arrival of additional acting ensemble members for The Merchant of Venice and The City Madam companies indicates further treats are in store!

To all who have been with the RSC before, welcome back! To all who are with us for the first time, welcome indeed! We hope you all enjoy this very special time in Stratford and do please be assured of our support and best wishes.

Tony Boyd-Williams

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Well we have been in Stratford for almost a year after our sojourn around the world. What a wonderful place. The RST, as my wife, Ingrid, so aptly puts it is an Olympus of Magic Places. I so much enjoy being an RSC Friend and am delighted to help where I can. Great memories of the last year  the “Visitor Counting’, the Candlelight Procession, the Builders Evening,  Backstopping for the Tours. the Costume Sale, the superb and so well organised RSC Events, the friendship and welcome by so many of you in particular the industrious Jane, Penny and Valerie. And not forgetting the friendliness and professional approach of the Guides, FOH, Box Office and the Marketing team. I have met so many interesting people. Becky Loftus, Head of Audience Insight, who was in charge of the Visitor Counting and Feedbacks like everyone in the Marketing Department, seems to work around the clock. Thank you all for making the last year so enjoyable.

The theatre is wonderful, the acoustics outstanding and the productions all great. I have been looking at some of the notes I made about them. 

Romeo and Juliet.                 “Jonjo was brilliant, the best Mercutio we have ever seen and Rupert Goold should be very pleased with his cast. Well done all of them. Listening to Mariah Gale with her back to us proved yet again how wonderful the acoustics are in this magnificent place.”  (3 March) “Our son, over from Germany, had the wonderful opportunity to watch R&J last night and like us thoroughly enjoyed the performance. He was really impressed by the theatre, the acoustics, the seating, the décor, the architecture etc. In addition, thank you to the superb box office team who were helpful and informative and went out of their way to help him as was evident to most people standing around the foyer.” (10 March)

Antony and Cleopatra               We very much enjoyed Antony and Cleopatra. There were outstanding dynamic performances by Katy Stephens and Darrell D’Silva. Very impressed by all the cast-well done in particular, Brian Doherty, Hannah Young and Sandy Neilson. We were very impressed too by the FOH lady who was so kind to an elderly gentleman sitting near us, in ensuring he found his way to his seat. Congratulations to the RSC and Michael Boyd. We enjoyed the production much more than last year at the Courtyard. (14 March)

King Lear                                 I watched this brilliant production twice within a week .Very impressed. Greg Hicks and the cast were outstanding. Darrell D’Silva, when Caius, proved yet again his acting skills and remembered his South Yorkshire roots. The director, David Farr, must be very pleased with what he has achieved. The casting director should also be commended-what joy to have Kelly and Katy as the evil sisters. We really enjoyed Geoffrey Freshwater as Gloucester, even better than his skinning a rabbit (AYLI). Yes, we were bowled over; just hope the England cricket team is not at the world cup! (16 March)

by David Stevens, RSC Friend, Stratford upon Avon

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Monday 21 June witnessed another splendid Public Understudy Performance – this time it was the turn of the ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA company. Prior to the action, Assistant Director Helen Leblique told us she was proud of these members of the ensemble for what they have achieved in a short space of time. A most enjoyable and stimulating afternoon confirmed that such pride was more than justified.

Indeed. the enjoyment was (in a most professional sense ) clearly evident on stage as Kathryn Hunter, Darrell D’Silva, John Mackay and Brian Doherty appeared in cameo roles whilst unselfishly supporting their colleagues appearing in the parts normally taken by them. What strength in an ensemble which can field such main performances as well as those from understudies Katy Stephens, Geoffrey Freshwater, Charles Aitken and Phillip Edgerley.

Special mention must also be made of Greg Hicks and Paul Hamilton who each played three roles! However, as accolade is due for the whole cast (and they were appearing in their usual roles that evening).

This never to be repeated performance crowned a series of quite unforgettable Public Understudy Performances by our 2009/2010 ensemble. What a further feast of theatrical memories. Ah, the privilege of now being able to tell the grandchildren “I WAS THERE”.

Tony Boyd-Williams

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How very apt that ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA was being performed on the 10th and 11th May. Part of the play deals with politicians trying to negotiate deals and sort out the balance of power and that of course was exactly what was happening in London 2010 as – following the Hung Parliament as a result of the General Election – politicians of the three main parties engaged in talks to determine what form a coalition might take. Our Shakespeare certainly DID know all about holding the mirror up to nature but I am sure we wish a longer lasting political outcome than that known by Antony, Caesar and Lepidus or Cleopatra!

 The above thoughts certainly enriched my further enjoyment of this superb modern dress production when I saw it on the evening of 11th May. The treachery of Proculeius and the position from which Caesar delivers his political eulogy at the end were particularly telling and underlined the dramatic excellence shown by Michael Boyd and his ensemble.

 I should also mention that it was so very good to see Darrell D’Silva now being able to use both arms and with Kathryn Hunter giving us quite memorable and moving performances of the title roles.

 The more I see this play, the more riches I find to justify Harley Granville -Barker’s quote which I have used as the title for these blogs.

 Tony Boyd-Williams

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I have now found out that owing to the postponed Press Night for Antony and Cleopatra, the Public Understudy performance has been postponed to Monday 21st June. I am sure all who have booked tickets for the 18th May will receive formal notification asap, but thought loyal blog readers might like to know.

It seems Darrell is now well on the road to recovery  – he is no longer using the sling and I am sure we wish him, Kathryn, Michael and the entire company all the very best for Press Night. I cannot make it myself, but I understand the production is still growing, so I have booked to see the performance on Tuesday next. Please watch this space!

Tony Boyd-Williams

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I did not see any of Corin Redgrave’s early appearances with the RSC, but I do have a VHS which captures his Octavius Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra, following an ITV recording of the production. The first time I saw him on stage was a year or so before he went to Stratford. He had just taken over from Daniel Massey (also to be a member of the RSC in 1983/4) the title role of Abelard in Ronald Millar’s Abelard and Heloise which was enjoying a West End run at Wyndham’s Theatre. I still recall the quiet dignity and sensitivity which he brought to the role of the philosopher monk, as well as his anguish as he sought God’s guidance for his future.

Provincial Theatre also provided him with rich roles. I think particularly of his appearance at Derby as Crocker-Harris in The Browning Version (a role previously made famous by his father in the early film version) and at Lichfield Garrick when he co-directed the opening production of The Recruiting Officer and also provided a ripe and memorable character study of Captain Brazen.

I particularly remember his return to the RSC in 1996. It was to play George Washington in the premiere of The General from America and our younger son and myself were present for the first preview. What was noticeable was again the sensitivity he brought to the role, as well as his quite unselfish underplaying. Our son (who was studying Drama) had never seen Corin Redgrave before (although he had of course heard of him) and after the performance remarked it had been “..a treat to watch such acting”.

Fortunately, Stratford was to welcome back this member of the Redgrave dynasty when he was invited by Michael Boyd to play King Lear in the 2004 season of Tragedies at the Main House. It was fascinating to think that Michael Redgrave had also played the role at the then Shakespeare Memorial Theatre over fifty years before and his son now added to theatrical lore another memorable interpretation of this most challenging of roles.

Not only are these performances captured on video at the Shakespeare Centre, but an earlier interpretation of Lear is obtainable on cassette following a BBC Radio Three broadcast in 2001.

I am also aware that he played Kenneth Tynan during the New Work Festival that season, but alas I was not able to get to a performance. What I DO remember that season is his appearance for a Question and Answer session during the RSC Summer School at the Shakespeare Institute and the gracious way in which he was prepared to discuss his interpretation of Lear. Not only that, he was happy to remain afterwards to chat about the production and I was fortunate to have a few words with someone who will remain a legend in British Theatre.

Tony Boyd-Williams

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First Part (3)

The press night for the RSC’s  new production of Antony and Cleopatra may have been postponed, but the performance I very much enjoyed yesterday evening (20th April) confirmed what the public dress rehearsal suggested. Michael Boyd is giving us something very special with this fantastic production. The use of The Courtyard takes the audience at a swift pace through the multiple locations, whilst the modern dress outlines the clash of cultures and the sharp political edges of the story. Indeed, I do not recall  a production where the politics, exciting and at times downright dirty, are staged so effectively and with such an up to date resonance.

Darrell D’Silva may still be playing Antony with an arm in a sling but this in no way detracts from the power and panache of his performance. When Julius Caesar returns to the repertoire in July, it will be fascinating to watch the theatrical journey of this Antony.

In the same way, Kathryn Hunter gives us something very special as Cleopatra. I do not recall so much humour in her scenes or so much of a portrayal which underlined the loyalty of her court.

Above all, this Antony and Cleopatra make us fully realize their hurt and loneliness at significant moments in the play, and at the same time their unquestionable love for one another whatever the political and domestic consequences. 

Darrell and Kathryn are supported by some very strong performances from the remainder of the ensemble, a reminder that as with King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, the whole company is a tremendous edifice in which there is not one loose stone.

The set, music, lighting and costumes all play a significant part in a production “quite unparalled”.

Meanwhile we have the public understudy performance (plus that of King Lear next month). What a theatrical banquet we are being treated to in 2010!

And Part ( 2)

Those of us who were privileged to attend the Public Dress Rehearsal on Monday 12th April are not likely to forget the occasion. Michael Boyd’s witty and sensitive words of welcome beforehand reminded us not only of the commitment of Darell D’Silva in returning so soon following his injury and operation, but also of the additional commitment of Geoffrey Freshwater in preparing to understudy if need be for the dress and early previews.

In fact, commitment by the whole company was the order of the evening. Darell coped superbly with his arm in a sling, supported not only by Kathryn (Hunter) but the entire ensemble. I felt it was a fascinating, absorbing and most exciting evening.

Some friends of ours had never been to a Dress Rehearsal before, but were so impressed with what they saw that they determined to buy tickets asap for a later performance. 

Thanks also to the Box Office and others concerned at the RSC for the telephone calls and e-mails to let us know about the change to Monday’s performance -so much appreciated.

Tony Boyd-Williams, Stratford

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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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