Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Clifford Williams’

A feast of Shakespeare’s  HISTORIES during this special holiday week not only enabled me to really appreciate the by now growing strengths of the RSC ensemble, but also the dramatic benefits of the open stage as opposed to waiting for the action to happen once a curtain had risen. The direction of the plays by Peter Hall, John Barton and Clifford Williams (with assistance from Frank Evans) ensured that even before the house lights went down, characters entered and by their very actions and movement prepared us for what was to follow (e.g. in RICHARD II, Bushy, Green and Bagot seemed to conspire in one corner whilst seeming to deliberately disregard John of Gaunt who remained alone at another part of the stage). At the moment the first lines of any of the plays was spoken, the house lights dimmed and we were plunged into a world of politics and warfare, with Shakespeare’s words allowing the story to unfold.

Such dramatic beginnings were most effective and the device continued when the intervals were reached. Certain characters e.g. the gardeners in RICHARD II, the drawers in HENRY 1V -PART I were left on stage as the house lights came up and proceed to move props or items of furniture in readiness for the following scene. This was my first introduction to members of an acting company performing tasks which had hitherto been performed behind  the curtain by unseen stage staff.

Another innovation for me was the use of live musicians in costume  -most effective and exciting especially in the case of drums and trumpets accompanying marching armies. Of course, fifty years on we are used at the RSC to experiencing live music, but in the sixties I was reminded of Prospero’s Line -“Tis new to thee”. 

However, one aspect of the RSC I had not yet experienced was new work. This was to be remedied the following year when I saw Ian Holm (Prince Hal and Richard III during that memorable 1964 season ) in a world premiere of a play specially commissioned by Peter Hall. The play? Harold Pinter’s THE HOMECOMING and the next blog will share some special memories of  fantastic evening in a theatre with a production that became not only a landmark for the RSC but for British Theatre.

Tony Boyd-Williams

Read Full Post »

I was not able to return to Stratford until 1963,but I kept in touch with the RSC by reading reviews and articles in THE STAGE plus THEATRE WORLD. Two years after my initial thrill of coming to Stratford and the RST for the first time, the thrill was experienced once more when I twice made the theatrical pilgrimage from  Cardiff. But what to see when funds dictate that this sixth former could only manage two visits ?

I HAD planned to see the first part of the now celebrated WARS OF THE ROSES cycle which was simply entitled HENRY VI, but the illness of Peter Hall meant that the production was postponed  and a performance of JULIUS CAESAR was substituted for the performance I had booked for. This CAESAR (perhaps because it was the first professional production I had seen of the play ) is still a vivid memory. Director John Blatchley gave a fast moving and almost at times cinematic interpretation, whilst eclectic costumes suggested a modern political thriller. In a programme note, John Blatchley challenged the audience to rethink that this is a play about noble  Romans by posing the question -“How many actions in the play are noble ? ” If we go back to the text, the answer is very little. This production  was therefore a milestone in my theatrical journey of discovering new interpretations of a play and also helped me to look at the play afresh, especially as it reflected world politics in 1963.

The sparse but effective set was (along with the costumes ) designed by John Bury, then an Associate Designer and the music (most martial and quite stirring )was by someone who became a well known name in the RSC and Stratford  generally -Guy Woolfenden. 

The second production I saw that season was THE TEMPEST, directed by Clifford Williams in collaboration with PETER BROOK. It reminded the audience that Shakespeare used practically all his themes in this “last play” and it was also very funny  (brilliant clowning in the Caliban/Trinculo/Stephano scenes ) and most magical with splendid sets and costumes by the then other Associate designer, Abd’Elkader Farrah. It was quite a coincidence that at the Builders’ night on the 26th November last, I met up with his son and daughter. We had a very enjoyable time recalling this production and their father’s special contribution. Very much a case of the early days of the RSC being recalled in our transformed building.

Other memories of 1963 include long term ensemble actors plus the new programmes which the company introduced that year. Such memories must await the next blog and in case you may be wondering, I have not forgotten those word of advice from former ensemble member Russell Hunter. They WILL also be included very soon!

Tony Boyd-Williams

Read Full Post »