Posts Tagged ‘Richard III’

by David Stevens


March 22: – Standing ovation first night preview, even better performance when I took Ingrid on the 27th March and sure to be better and better. Beg, steal or borrow a ticket. Great Richard and brilliant cast and direction.

 Jonjo shines as Richard III at RSC’s Swan | Stratford Observer


Richard III RSC Swan Theatre Stratford JONJO O’Neill, with a little help from his friends, ensures The World Shakespeare Festival gets off to a gripping start

April 9: – You will be absolutely blown away by Pippa Nixon in King John– as the reviewer writes the role of a lifetime.

King John Reviews at Swan Theatre – Stratford-Upon-Avon – Whatsonstage.com


Luckily for a reviewer, there are nights in the theatre that completely reaffirm your love for the magic of live performance. Tonight is one of those nights. Maria Aberg’s production of King John is nothing short of a triumph. It is a vital and vibrant reworking of a neglected play that transfor…

April 23: – And today the Company welcomed the Iraqi Theatre Company who will be performing Romeo And Juliet in Bagdad at the Swan from 26 April to May5. This version of the play is in Arabic with English surtitles. Directed by Monadhil Daood. Sounds really exciting – music, poetry and ritual. Met them today- what a lovely group of people

May 1st: – Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad. Last night was wonderful both the performance at The Swan and the superb party at the Duck. An outstanding achievement from the Iraqi Theatre Company, It was pure joy. Rhythm, feeling and proof that, via Shakespeare, we are all Brothers. To Monadihil Daood and his team of actors and musicians all I can say is shukran (thank you).

May 4: – Having attended the understudy performance of The Comedy of Errors, it just confirms what a strong Ensemble of Actors and technical management team the Royal Shakespeare Company have available. Jonathan Slinger giving us an “Accrington” accent, the joy of Amer Hlehel playing Angelo, Sandy Grierson excelling with an English accent and his twin Sargon Yelda so strong in his part. It was clear that they along with the magnificent lady members deserved the applause from the audience. However ANKUR BAHL playing both Dromios stole the show- not easy when one considers how brilliant Felix Hayes and Bruce Mackinnon are in the usual show. Privilege to have been there and Ankur is one to watch out for. Bravo. Recommend to everyone to try and get to an understudy performance.

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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

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As this is a very special year in RSC History, I thought I would write a series of blogs with my thoughts and reactions linking 1961 to 2011.To be honest, I have to declare an interest because as some of you know, this year marks 50 years of my first coming to Stratford and seeing an RSC production.

Inevitably, at the age of 15 it was a school visit, on a beautiful June day and the play was RICHARD III. Surprising as it may seem, I did not really know much about the RSC then, nor did I appreciate that it was a special year as the Royal Charter had  been granted. I was just excited at the prospect of seeing the play at the theatre in William Shakespeare’s home town and being one of a generation brought up on seeing Laurence Oliver’s portrayal on film of the hunchback king, to be able to see a live performance of this exciting history play.

I still recall the thrill of turning from Sheep Street into Waterside and seeing the RST for the first time. THIS was the mecca of all theatrical pilgrims and 50 years on, I experience that thrill every time  I see our transformed home. The 1932 foyer seemed absolutely amazing in size compared to that of the New Theatre, Cardiff, which was then the theatre I was used to visiting.  Today the Scott Bar reminds me of the awe and wonder I felt seeing the Art Deco for the first time and THAT special box office. If someone had told me then that 50 years on, I should have the privilege of standing there as a theatre guide with colleagues and being able to share this special space with visitors from all over the world !

I was also intrigued to be able to purchase from the then small shop copies of the SHAKESPEARE MEMORIAL THEATRE POSTCARD SERIES which presented all the world -famous players who had acted at  Stratford since 1948. I have since found out that there were 34 cards in the series and I was indeed spoiled for choice but plumped for Laurence Olivier as Macbeth and Anthony Quayle as Falstaff. What else? A programme of course. The latter cost one shilling and was really just an official cast list within the now celebrated red cover with the new company logo by Lilia De Nobili (remember that swan ?).

Even so, I was soon to see the play and  make my way to the Balcony entrance. Like so many theatregoers, I am delighted that the old Balcony door is still to be seen because it became the portal leading to so much theatrical pleasures and magic. As for the performance itself ?  Yes, I know “the play’s the thing ” and the performance that so enthralled me 50 years ago will be the subject of the next blog

Tony Boyd-Williams.

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As a couple more of the History Boys ensemble are emerging shyly into the Spring sunshine.
First it’s Keith Bartlett, who is part of the Shakespeare’s Globe company that will be reading The King James Bible between 17 and 25 April at the Globe. See http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/ to book and for more information. And then Chuk Iwuji who has the plum role of Buckingham to Kevin Spacey’s Richard III (the final production of the Bridge Project, directed by Sam Mendes) that’s playing at the Old Vic from 18 June to 11 September. http://www.oldvictheatre.com/ has all the details.


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Little did I think that when I came to the RST for the first time in June 1961 to see RICHARD III with  Christopher Plummer in the title role, I would be sitting in a new auditorium with my wife fifty years’ later on the occasion of the official opening of a new and transformed theatre, and that the ceremony would be performed by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip.

What a happy and glorious occasion indeed! The entire event was splendidly organized -thanks to all concerned and (without being in any way flippant ) it was fascinating in retrospect to think that as in the film SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, it is suggested that Queen Elizabeth I MIGHT have been present at the first performance of ROMEO AND JULIET, so our own Queen DID see Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale in the “Balcony Scene “.

They both performed splendidly and the whole essence of ensemble stood out as they were loudly cheered by their colleagues.

The special plaque unveiled by Her Majesty will be positioned at the base of the Theatre Tower as a reminder of this special day. As the Royal car departed along Waterside to loud cheering, it  was clear that our splendid new building is Royal indeed.

Tony Boyd-Williams

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