The Tempest (The Courtyard, 26th, 27th, 28th February 2009)

 

Wow, this is a production that as well as being entertaining, is also very political and makes you think. Superb casting of Antony Sher as Prospero and John Kani as Caliban really emphasises the postcolonial themes in the play. The play makes us think about the Caliban and Propsero relationship in terms of relationships between whites and blacks in apartheid South Africa.

Though the production clearly attempts to place the Propsero and Caliban relationship as its central focus, the relationship between Prospero and Ariel is a strength in the production. Atandwa Kani, with his athletic and his decorated body, is a stunning Ariel. It is clear that Propsero delights in Ariel’s magic and youthfulness, but can’t tell him he loves him nor can he embrace him. Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, does not have this restraint and baggage from the so called civilised world and she looks upon the stranded Milanese with delight. This is a portrayal of Miranda as if she really grew up on an island away from the latest fashion and trends.

The music is stunning, the use of puppets and masks is staggering which all adds to the spectacle. The production is loud and colourful and aesthetically beautiful. There isn’t a moment when you aren’t fully engaged.

Details of the production

http://www.rsc.org.uk/WhatsOn/6941.aspx

Photos of the Production
(from the RSC Facebook site)

Previews, Interviews and Reviews

The Times – Sir Antony Sher: Actor/writer/direc…
The Leamington Observer – Tempest to an African…
news.google.com
RSC storming back to city after decade with Tem…
The Tempest, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-…
Antony Sher on The Tempest, Stratford – Telegraph
BBC NEWS Entertainment Arts & Culture She…
Antony Sher on The Tempest, Stratford – Telegraph
The Tempest at the RSC Courtyard, Stratford – T…
Antony Sher and John Kani to Star in RSC’s The …
The Tempest, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-…
FT.com / UK – The Tempest
She(e)r passion – Mail & Guardian Online: The s…
Antony Sher on The Tempest, Stratford – Telegraph

The Tempest, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-up…
Curtain goes up on region’s must-see shows – Yo…
Tempest gets a blast of sunshine – Coventry Tel…
Theatre review: The Tempest / Courtyard theatre…
The Tempest: Full of spectacle and zest, it wil…
The Stage / Reviews / The Tempest
The Tempest at Courtyard Theatre, Stratford – r…
Tonight – Stepping out from under dad’s shadow
Theatre review: The Tempest / Courtyard, Stratf…
The Stage / Reviews / The Tempest
The Tempest: How a legend of African theatre wa…
The Tempest : Whatsonstage Midlands
The Tempest, Courtyard, Stratford
Othello, W…

Tonight – More Shaka than Shakespeare
The Tempest whips up a storm Metro.co.uk
The Tempest at Courtyard, Stratford – Times Online

Coronation Street, Law and Order, Who Do You Think You Are? (February 23rd 2009)

I think I was really pleased that Law and Order was on last night, because I am finding that Coronation Street is really struggling to keep me interested. Ken is seeing another woman again. Tina is lying for David again. There’s a new boss at the Factory again. Steve McDonald has moved a woman into the pub, and Liz and Amy have to get used to her – again. Ryan Connor is scowling and you get the picture. I am a great Corrie fan, but I need my fix of that humour and sadness with a little bit of originality that makes Corrie a great TV drama, and that seems to be missing at the moment.

Law and Order is based on an American programme, which I must admit, I have never watched. The structure is the police solve the crime and the prosecutors bring justice. What a cast as well. Freema Agyeman was refreshing as a young and keen prosecutor contrasted against the director of the CPS , Bill Pattison and the Detective Sergeant played by Bradley Walsh. As the mystery was contrasted with will they prosecute, it felt very satisfying getting the resolution to the narrative all in one evening.

I also watched Who Do You Think You Are? thanks to the magic of my SKY + box. I just thought what a beautiful woman Zoë Wanamaker is and how interesting Sam’s story was. We are aware of the Globe’s story and Sam’s quest to reconstruct the Globe in London. This is a wonderful story, but the story of how Sam came to England was really fascinating as well. I do like this programme, because I get caught up in the search and want to see how far back the Family Historians go. In last night’s episode, Wanamaker just went back through her father’s line and ended up tracing her Grandfather’s family back to Russia.

The Hounding of David Oluwale (WYP, 18th February 2009), Othello (RSC 21st February 2009), Othello (Northern Broadsides, 25th February 2009)

For one week in February, when you walked up to the West Yorkshire Playhouse you would have been confronted by two large poster images of David Oluwale and Othello (Lenny Henry). I’m not sure whether it was a deliberate decision for the West Yorkshire Playhouse to put on The Hounding of David Oluwale and Othello back to back, but in doing so and juxtaposing the two images, you can’t help but make comparisons. Renaissance Venice and the late twentieth century Leeds contain uncomfortable racist elements and a story that is 400 years old is still, sadly, relevant today. An article on the West Yorkshire Playhouse web site, discusses how the face of David is made up of a montage of pictures of scenes of Leeds (http://www.wyp.org.uk/interface/news_item_details.asp?news_ID=4283 accessed 23rd February 2009). Even more striking is the fact that the image looks across at Millgate Police Station, the station where the police officers who were accused of hounding David were stationed.

The Hounding of David Oluwale is a play about the stories of two men, David and the investigator, Perkins. Perkins acts as a narrator trying to piece David’s real story, the one beyond the police file and hospital records. It’s also a story about Leeds as the city attempts to rebuild the city and present a sense of civic pride. A pride that we also see in Venice as the army goes to war against the Turks. In building a pride in the city, Leeds’ issues are hidden, so rather than solve the homeless problem, the homeless are constantly moved from the door ways then sleep in and given little opportunity to sleep. One of these people is David who is constantly moved on by the police and in the end is brutal at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us. The play makes us aware of what the crux of the narrative from its opening as the body of David Oluwale is recovered from the River Aire and Perkins starts his search for the truth and to get justice for David’s death.

The story is narrated through conversations between David Oluwale and Perkins which are flash backs and also interviews with other people involved in the story. Interspersed with the story of David in Leeds are memories of Nigeria and David’s youth. There are scenes with his mother who clearly did not want her son to come to England. The cast move between roles so you get a real sense of the city and the range of people involved in this story. When playing the homeless the characters wear masks over their faces to illustrate that they are playing people with no identity outside the homeless community.

This is a heartbreaking story and it really moved me, as well as making me uncomfortable at Yorkshire’s past. David’s story starts with so much promise as he comes to England with the hope of becoming an an engineer. He meets a girl, Jenny, and the scenes between them are so tender. The things go wrong, and David is accused of not paying for a cup of tea and is assaulted for the first time by the police. He spends time in Armley jail and then in hospital where he is subjected to EST. David’s arrival in England was full of so much hope and it is shattering to see the man who danced limping and broken.

The RSC’s production of Othello, directed by Kathryn Hunter, has a clear theme running through it. This world is a racist and sexist world, where the entertainment consists of characters blacking up and an effigy of Desdemona being crudely smeared with black shore polish. The Northern Broadsides production does not use this kind of stage business to convey the racism in the play, but is more subtle in its approach, but does not detract from how awful the racist elements of the society are. At the moments that characters refer to Othello’s race and make derogatory remarks, Henry just rolls his neck to indicate his discomfort and that he is clearly tired of hearing this stuff all the time. Henry’s action is just so powerful.

Henry is a big man and his Othello has a clear stage presence which is very forceful and at the start of the plays really makes you feel that he is in charge. It is all the more shocking then when Henry ends up on the floor in a fit brought down so quickly by Conrad Nelson’s excellent Iago. All this happens in a day, which makes you wonder what kind of ‘chaos’ Othello encountered before he met and married Desdemona. Henry’s Othello is a transition similar to David Oluwale which is represented between both the physical and mental deterioration.

The area that I felt that Northern Broadsides did not make the most of was 5.2 as if the company didn’t really get round to blocking the scene. Henry did not make clear which lights he was referring to and there was little contact between Othello and Desdemona until her murders him. Henry enters the bedchamber and stands at the side of the bed to speak as if he was clear what the actions might be. I suppose this scene has been produced in so many different ways from Maggie Smith’s passive Desdemina in Olivier’s version to Imogen Stubb’s struggling and fighting back in Trevor Nunn’s version, and something less played was a challenge at this point in the play.

This was very much an ensemble production. As a regular at Nothern Broadsides performances, I recognised actors from previous roles. Conrad Nelson’s Iago was stunning. He made so much of those pauses and twists and changes. Maeve Larkin was a wonderful Emilia and the moment she realises that Iago has manipulated everything was an exciting piece of theatre.

Henry was a really credible Othello and the audience clearly loved him. He looked drained at the end of the performance, I saw having brought a really interesting interpretation to the role and moved to dispel this view that Shakespeare is just for posh people. Henry showed that Shakespeare can touch us all. Just as Othello is sadly relevant today, The Hounding of David Oluwale is also a powerful story and more so because it is a true story.

The Hounding of David Oluwale

http://www.wyp.org.uk/events/event_details.asp?event_ID=639 (Details of the production)
The Hounding of David Oluwale, West Yorkshire P…
Preview: The Hounding Of David Oluwale, West Yo…
Theatre review: The Hounding of David Oluwale /…
The Stage / Reviews / The Hounding Of David Olu
Theatre reviews from around the country – Teleg
Preview: The Hounding Of David Oluwale, West Yo…

Othello (RSC)

Othello – Touring – Times Online
Othello at the Warwick Arts Centre and touring – Times Online
Topical Bard (From The Northern Echo)
The Stage / News / Harry Potter actress to make…
Bidisha: Othello? Don’t do it, Lenny Comment …
Othello at the Warwick Arts Centre and touring …
Othello – Touring – Times Online
Interview: Kathryn Hunter talks about Othello -…
Theatre review: Othello / Warwick Arts Centre, …
Othello: Oxford Playhouse (From The Oxford Times)
The Taming Of The Shrew, Novello Theatre, Londo
FT.com / Arts / Theatre & Dance – Othello, West…
The Stage / News / Harry Potter actress to make…
Interview: Patrice Naiambana theatre features…
Birmingham Post – Life & Leisure – Birmingham C…

Othello (Northern Broadsides)
http://www.wyp.org.uk/events/event_details.asp?event_ID=5454 (Information of the production)
Bidisha: Othello? Don’t do it, Lenny Comment …
The Tempest, Courtyard, Stratford
Othello, W…

What to say about … Lenny Henry’s Othello S…
FT.com / Arts / Theatre & Dance – Othello, West…
Lenny Henry on playing Othello – Telegraph
Shakespeare’s Othello is no joke for Lenny – Co…
Theatre review: Othello, West Yorkshire Playhou
Lenny Henry shows he’ll be a tower of strength …
No reason why Lenny Henry can’t be Othello – Bi…
Curtain goes up on region’s must-see shows – Yo…
Lenny Henry makes non-comedy stage debut as lea…
Lenny just a jealous guy… and it’s no joke – …
Othello at the West Yorkshire Playhouse – Times…
People: Eileen Atkins turns up her nose at Lenn
Othellos past, present and future Stage gua
Lenny Henry set to take on Bard challenge (From…
First Night: Othello, Quarry Theatre, West York…
Sneak preview: Lenny Henry as Othello – Yorkshi
Charles Hutchinson reviews Lenny Henry in Othel
‘Isn’t there some panto you want me to do first…
Eileen Atkins voices concern at Lenny Henry’s a…
Lenny Henry on playing Othello – Telegraph
Preview: Othello, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Lee…
BBC NEWS Entertainment Arts & Culture Hen…

Rodchenko and Popova (Tate Modern, 14th February 2009)

This was a very interesting exhibition from a group of artists who challenged what art is and tried to move away from art being representational. The exhibition takes you through the development of Rodchenko and Popova’s work, each room containing examples from a short period of time. Rodchenko and Popova defined Constructivism and it is interesting that the exhibition is arranged chronologically at first and then in themes (Kandinsky, Architecture and Sculpture). Room Seven makes an attempt to recreate the 5×5 = 25 paintings part of an exhibition in Moscow.

What I found was a wonderful patterning of lines and shapes and colours that worked against a two dimensional image. Cubism is clearly an influence, and textures are key to objects and paintings. Room Nine shows works which work with photo montages. One of the interesting things about this exhibition is that the images contributed to wider life, such as advertising and the Workers Club.

Previews and Reviews

At full tilt: Rodchenko and Popova Art and de
My grandad, Rodchenko the clown Art and desig
How an art-loving chauffeur saved Russian revol
New Statesman – Constructing a new world
Alexander Rodchenko’s Russian revolution – Feat…
Displaying the Rodchenko and Popova revolution – Times Online
news.google.com
Revolution in the head: The kings of constructi
Rodchenko & Popova: Defining Constructivism, Tate Modern, London – Reviews, Art – The Independent
Rodchenko & Popova: Defining Constructivism – T…

Catalogue

Tupitsyn M. (2009). Rodchenko and Popova. Defining Constructivism. London, Tate Publishing.

Twelfth Night (The Donmar in the West End, Saturday 14th February 2009)

It was Valentine’s day when we went to see Twelfth Night at the Wyndham’s Theatre, and we’d spent the day in London, which had been decked out with red hearts, so it was a very appropriate day to go and watch a love story. Though Twelfth Night explores different relationships and different forms of love.

So Orsino is in love with Olivia or so he thinks, but he is more in love with the idea of being in love. Olivia is in mourning and at first is refusing to fall in love… until she meets Viola dressed as a boy (Cesario) and falls in love with Cesario. Then Sir Toby sets Sir Andrew up to think that Olivia will marry him and Malvolio is duped into thinking Olivia is in love with him. Sir Toby falls in love with Maria and we think that Antonio, the sailor, may have a thing about Sebastian and .. yes it is all complex and muddled and this is why Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s mature comedies.

The stage floor is like the deck of the ship and the nautical theme runs throughout the production and not just in the shipwreck scene. We are always reminded that we are by the sea, and we hear the seagulls flying above and the lapping of the sea at points, The overhearing scene is on a beach and Sir Toby, Maria and Sir Andrew observe Malvolio from behind a windbreak. Viola and and Sebastian wear sailor attire and when Viola is shipwrecked she wears a stunning green dress reminiscent of the sea with the suggestion of a mermaid’s tail.

The play starts as a dark play. We are in a world where siblings have died and characters are in mourning, but the play lightens up and this was reflected in this production in several ways. Olivia changed from her black mourning suite into a very elegant light beige outfit and as the play progressed sunlight started to flicker through the shutters until these were opened up and in the end moved to reveal a blue background.

The strom starts the production and there is a flash of light as Orsino enters through the curtain front of stage. The background storm clearly reflecting Orsino’s mood.

Victoria Hamilton played Cesario very naturally and didn’t act masculinity as Imogen Stubbs does in the Trevor Nunn film version. There are real tears when she speaks the ‘patience on a monument’ speech. She is clearly uncomfortable delivering Orsino’s speech to Viola because these are not her words.

Malvolio is not a clown. It is because he is so serious that he is funny and that we find ourselves caught out laughing at a character that is actually treated very badly at the end of the play. Derek Jacobi’s timing was wonderful. He appeared as if he would never rush anywhere and when he dresses in his yellow stockings, he does it in such a way that it isn’t over the top, but just so out of character.

Samantha Spiro was fantastic as Maria and worked with the lines in such away she made their meaning very clear and we could laugh at jokes that may have become obscure through the years.

Orsino proposes to Viola as she is still dressed as a boy and Orsino still confuses Viola and Sebastian at the end of the play. Same sex desire is not overplayed but it is clearly an important element of this production and we are left to wonder what happens to certain characters. Did Orsino really fall in love with Cesario? Did Antonio love Sebastian? As the happy couples leave the stage together, other characters leave alone and we realise that even though there is a happy ending all is not necessarily well in Illyria.

Reviews and Previews

David Tennant’s excuse was a bad back but why d…
BBC NEWS Entertainment Tennant’s Shakespear…
The Stage / News / Donmar leads the way with 13…
Michael Billington: The Oliviers have snubbed H…
Brief Encounter With … Ron Cook What’s on Sta…
The Oxonian Review » Star-Crossed
Donmar & La Cage Lead Olivier Nomination Tallie…
Twelfth Night, Wyndham’s, WC2 – the Sunday Time…
La Cage aux Folles steals the spotlight at thea…
Critics honour Donmar Warehouse The Official …
Twelfth Night, Donmar, London
Simply Cindere…

Lots of actors in the running for an Olivier, b…
Drag race for the Olivier awards News
Tennant shares top actor prize – Scotsman.com News
I’ll never be ready for Christmas – so bring it…
The Stage / Reviews / Twelfth Night
CBBC Newsround TV/Film Tennant scoops award…
David scoops Critics’ Circle Hamlet award – Daily Express
Photos: Donmar Turns Out in Force at Critics Aw…
Derek Jacobi : Olivier, Burton and me – Telegraph
A Bow to Kenneth Branagh -Times Online
Donmar & La Cage Lead Olivier Nomination Tallie…
David Tennant misses out on Olivier Awards nomi…
People: Tennant misses out on Olivier Award N…
David Tennant scoops top theatre award – The Da…
Tennant’s Hamlet misses out on Olivier award – …
Critics hail Tennant for part-time Hamlet News
BBC NEWS Entertainment Arts & Culture Gam…
David Tennant excluded from voting for Laurence…
Twelfth Night The Official London Theatre Guide
Twelfth Night at the Donmar at Wyndhams – revie…
David Tennant shares Critics’ Circle award with…
Playbill News: August, La Cage, Tennant and Mor…
David Tennant misses out on Olivier award nomin…
First Night: Twelfth Night, Wyndham’s Theatre, …