Posts Tagged ‘Romeo and Juliet’

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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How splendid to be able to look back and say “I was there”. What a marvellous atmosphere in our new main house auditorium before, during and after the very first full length production on the new stage of one of William Shakespeare’s plays. The KING LEAR company did us proud indeed as they took to the stage with the panache and assurance suggesting they had been performing on it for many months.

At the end of this historic performance, much cheering and a large section of the audience on their feet. Bravo indeed !

The entire company (including all backstage members) had been working flat out with technical rehearsals earlier in the week and the evening was also a triumph for our Lighting, Sound and Automation Departments. Those of us who greatly enjoyed the special event on 15th December last  (LIGHTS SOUND ACTION) know that Vince Herbert, Jeremy Dunn and Adam Harvey – together with their colleagues, had been awaiting their opportunity to show what marvellous technical effects audiences can now expect. A  great deal of planning and expertise had been involved and to  all concerned, a bravo is due for you as well.

I now await a similarly enjoyable experience with the restaging of ROMEO AND JULIET, as well as the special effects for the new productions in our 50th Birthday celebrations. 

It is certainly going to be quite a year!

Tony Boyd-Williams

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The above is indeed true of former RSC actor Pete Postlethwaite who has just died at the age of 64. I first saw him on stage in 1979 at the Buxton Festival when he played Sergeant Kite (a rich character performance) in the Bristol Old Vic’s production of THE RECRUITING OFFICER which was directed by Adrian Noble. Four years later, Adrian made his debut at the RSC with his direction of KING LEAR when the title role was taken by Michael Gambon, Antony Sher played the Fool and Pete Posthethwaite was a bluff and sadistic Cornwall.

In the same season he was a loyal and vengeful Macduff, with a return to comedy  showing superb clowning as Grumio in Barry Kyle’s Production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. I next saw him in the 1986 season as a notable Bottom when his fellow mechanicals included David Haig and Sean Bean.

Another splendid performance in a Shakespearian role has been captured for all time with his superb Friar Laurence (both pastoral and moving) in Baz Lurhmann’s film ROMEO AND JULIET. In this special year when we celebrate 50 years since the granting of the Royal Charter to our company, we remember players like Pete Postlethwaite whose performances are  both  vivid memories and worthy to be recalled as we think of the theatrical ghosts of Stratford past. For him and other former RSC members who have strutted their hours upon the stage, the following words seem most fitting at this time :

“Fear no more the heat o’the sun,

Nor the furious winter’s rages;

Thou thy wordly task hast done,

Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages “.

by Tony Boyd-Williams

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Not only do our talented ensemble provide us with some truly exciting edge of the seat fight scenes  in Romeo and Juliet, but they are also able to quite effortlessly do so when all the cast play understudy roles. The public understudy performance on the March 30th was indeed one to remember, with the fight/dance sequences as powerful as ever.

We should indeed be grateful to Michael Boyd for his visionary outlook in making such performances available to us. By now, our ensemble are old friends and we welcome the chance to celebrate their continuing talents and quite unselfish ensemble teamwork. What is particularly important is that over the past two years, those playing major roles often play  minor or non speaking roles and seem to thoroughly enjoy doing so. It is also remarkable when such actors share a scene with their understudies and you sense their quiet but entirely supportive encouragement of colleagues. This really is ensemble and our theatre going in Stratford is all the richer as a result. 

All this was so much in evidence at this performance. Many thanks to Assistant Director Michael  Fentiman and the ensemble for putting on such a terrific  performance in ….was it really just a week?! Bravo to you all, and special mention must be made of our Romeo and Juliet for the afternoon, Dyfan Dwyfor and Debbie Korley.

All this whets the appetite for the public understudy performances of  KING LEAR and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA in May. Meanwhile to the R and J company -“carry on fighting !”

 Tony Boyd-Williams

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Photograph by Ellie Kurttz


Having thoroughly enjoyed the preview performance on 15th March, one can justifiably say – they certainly do! I have long admired Terry King’s fight arrangements, but this time he has excelled in every possible way, supported by the committed members of the ensemble who are involved. You really feel they mean business with their weaponry and if David Carr’s magisterial Escalus had not intervened during the first brawl there might have been more corpses on the stage than called for in the text. As it was the deaths of Mercutio, Tybalt and Paris are symptomatic of a  community where cold steel (and a rope) are used to settle disputes in preference to parley. It is also the first production of the play I have seen where Lady Capulet and Lady Montague are quite ready to inflict damage on each other during the first brawl, whilst their husbands show they can certainly stand alongside the younger members of their houses when it comes to swordplay.

I was interested to note that Michael Billington has drawn comparisons with Zefferelli’s1960 production. Like the latter (as well as the fights) the Capulet’s ball is quite memorable as are the performances (in my view, much stronger in this fantastic RSC staging by Rupert Goold).

The title roles are splendidly played with great aplomb and depth by Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale supported by memorable performances from all the other major characters and the company  in general. As with the recently opened KING LEAR, we have ensemble work par excellence and a text spoken with great meaning and relish. Bravo to all concerned! I now eagerly await the Public Understudy performance on 30th March.

by Tony Boyd Williams

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‘They fight’

It would be an interesting exercise to check how many times this stage direction is to be found in Shakespeare’s plays. It certainly occurs five times in ROMEO AND JULIET, providing much thought and imagination for a fight arranger/director.

The first time I saw the play was in 1961 when the Old Vic Company brought to Cardiff the then celebrated production directed by Franco Zeffirelli. The fights were in the capable hands of William Hobbs and I particularly remember the quite stunning visual impact of the first brawl between the Montagues and the Capulets with a great deal of  violent movement and swashbuckling swordplay.

I suspect that Rupert Goold’s  new  production at The Courtyard is going to provide audiences with fights that are going to be equally exciting and memorable. On this occasion they are being staged by Terry King , whose work needs no introduction to regular RSC audiences. Last week when a colleague and I were taking a large school group on a theatre tour we were all privileged to be able to watch from the gallery the last five minutes of a rehearsal for that first brawl and to watch Terry King and the ensemble in action. Stunning is not the word. How about  -WOW !?

 Roll on the preview. What is  the line ?

“Draw, if you be men ”

 (They fight ) – in this production they certainly do !

  by Tony Boyd-Williams, RSC Friends Theatre Tour Guide

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