Waiting For Godot (Theatre Royal Newcastle, 23rd April 2009)

Many of my recent posts have commented on how much the performances have referenced theatre. I couldn’t discuss this production of Waiting for Godot without commenting on the metatheatre.

The set is a derelict theatre. We watch the action through two frames, one is the proscenium arch of the Theatre Royal and the other is the run down, tumbling brickwork of the a theatre no longer in use. It could have been bombed during the second world war or it had fallen into disrepair and out of fashion. There is a wonderful moment when Estragon (Mckellan) leaves his boots on stage at the end of the first half and they are present in front of the safety curtain for the whole interval. The tree on stage is barren and resembles the gallows, or the cross, and in the second half it sprouts leaves. Does this signal there is hope after all?

The production was a very funny production, though Beckett is funny of course. Stewart and McKellan work with the lines and there is clearly a rapport between the two characters. There is also a sadness as well. Estragon forgets things and he is starting to rely on Vladimir to remind him.

Waiting for Godot is about the relationship between two men, whose life is about waiting around for something to happen. There’s slapstick and elements of music hall. There’s also that sense of people getting old. The constant repetition of the word ‘nothing’ and the sight of two old men helping each other in the wilderness, really highlighted the echoes of Shakespeare’s King Lear in Beckett’s play. At the same time it is like Laurel and Hardy or Morecombe and Wise. There’s humour is sadness and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Reviews and Previews

Waiting For Godot holds open auditions The Of…
Waiting for Godot: Milton Keynes Theatre, Theat
BBC NEWS Entertainment X-Men pair reunite f…
For Godot’s sake: McKellen and Stewart get smug…
Was Patrick Stewart right to berate a disruptiv
The Stage / News / Simon Callow and Ronald Pick…
BBC Interview – Waiting for Godot
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Playbill News: McKellen and Patrick Stewart…
David Smith on why Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for…
Callow and Pickup join Godot The Official Lon…
The Stage / News / Mathias to direct McKellen a…
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Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart on Waiting…
Godot has arrived: The stars of Beckett’s maste
McKellen to make Beckett debut at 70 News
Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart on Waiting…

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When We Are Married (WYP 21st April 2009)

I think I was surprised. I had read other reviews and I didn’t think that I would enjoy this production, but I had a really good time. it just shows though how diverse the reviews can be. The Telegraph gives the production 5 stars, but Charles Hutchinson in the Yorkshire Evening Press found flaws and The Stage reviewer wasn’t that impressed either. I tended to side with Charles Spencer on this production. For me, the strength was that the production was clearly set in a period of time. When I went to see the play, I had in mind Boeing Boeing, which just doesn’t hold true for 2009. WYP’s When We Were Married didn’t pretend it was relevant to 2009 and so it became a very entertaining evening. The female characters seemed to be much more developed than those in Boeing Boeing and had comments and views on the situation they found themselves in. Even though the status quo was maintained at the end of the play, it felt that the characters has been through a transforming experience. So even though there was a traditional ending, I went away feeling things might be slightly different for the couples, even if it was only slightly different.

Reviews and Previews
When We Are Married; Antony and Cleopatra – tou
Charles Hutchinson reviews When We Are Married …
When We Are Married; Antony and Cleopatra – tou
The Stage / Reviews / When We Are Married
When We Are Married; Antony and Cleopatra – tou
Les Dennis to star in play (From York Press)

The Tempest – again (Sheffield Lyceum, 23rd April 2009)

Having seen this Baxter Theatre/RSC production in Stratford (Courtyard Theatre), I was really keen to see it in a different playing space. The proscenium arch theatre in Sheffield did present a very different viewing experience, but none of exceitement I felt when I saw the production in February was lost.

In a proscenium arch theatre, the audience are separated from the performance. It is like watching a framed picture and as you are aware of rows of the backs of other members of the audience in front of you there isn’t that sense of being really close to the action, but feeling at a distance from the actors, dancers and musicians. In Sheffield the house lights are down, whereas in Stratford they were up so there was much more sense of being aware that the actors could see you and were responding to you.

At Sheffield, I was much more aware of the changing colours. The strong green and blue backgrounds contrasted with the very dark backgrounds when Caliban was on stage. I hadn’t really seen this in Stratford. In Stratford, I watched the performance from several different angles. In Sheffield all the action was in front of me. The action is much more contained on a proscenium arch stage. In Stratford the sea serpent and the mariners use the whole stage, which means they are surrounded by the audience. The Sycorax puppet enters from different parts of the theatre making it very magical.

I felt the production worked well in the different space, but it does highlight how the Courtyard stage draws the audience in and how close you are to the actors and action.

Reviews and Previews (Updated List).

The Tempest at the RSC Courtyard, Stratford – T…
The Tempest: How a legend of African theatre wa…
Antony Sher and John Kani to Star in RSC’s The …
BBC NEWS Programmes Andrew Marr Show Vide…
news.google.com
The Tempest whips up a storm Metro.co.uk
SA Tempest triumphs as it takes the UK by storm
The Tempest, Courtyard, Stratford
Othello, W…

Antony Sher on The Tempest, Stratford – Telegraph
Theatre review: The Tempest / Courtyard theatre…
Luke’s enjoying some Bard times (From Elmbridge…
The Tempest at Courtyard Theatre, Stratford – r…
The Weston Mercury – The Tempest at Bath
The Tempest, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-up…
Capturing the magic – Sheffield Telegraph
The Tempest: Full of spectacle and zest, it wil…
The Tempest at Courtyard, Stratford – Times Online
RSC storming back to city after decade with Tem…
Tempest gets a blast of sunshine – Coventry Tel…
She(e)r passion – Mail & Guardian Online: The s…
Tonight – More Shaka than Shakespeare
Antony Sher on The Tempest, Stratford – Telegraph
Curtain goes up on region’s must-see shows – Yo…
The Tempest – Review (From Wimbledon Guardian)
Out of Africa, Shakespeare with the stars and a…
The Tempest, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-…
Antony Sher on The Tempest, Stratford – Telegraph
The Times – Sir Antony Sher: Actor/writer/direc…
The Stage / Reviews / The Tempest
Theatre review: The Tempest / Courtyard, Stratf…
FT.com / UK – The Tempest
The Tempest: Why the RSC got it wrong – Feature…
The Tempest whips up a storm Metro.co.uk
Theatre Review (Stratford-on-Avon): The Tempest…
The Leamington Observer – Tempest to an African…
Tonight – Stepping out from under dad’s shadow
Kani’s Caliban bids for freedom (From Your Loca…
Review of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The T…
The Stage / Reviews / The Tempest
A stormy Knight in Richmond (From Epsom Guardian)
The Tempest, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-…
BBC NEWS Entertainment Arts & Culture She…
The Tempest : Whatsonstage Midlands

Doctor Who, Planet of the Dead (BBC 1, 11th April 2009)

I am a great fan of Doctor Who and look forward to each episode. Unfortunately, the special ‘Planet of the Dead’ was not, in my view, one of the best episodes of the TV programme.

With any Doctor Who episode, viewers are confronted with the layers of narratives surrounding the production. It is as if the viewer feels that they are being let into the ‘secrets’, but it is more like a publicity campaign constantly keeping Doctor Who in the public eye. For this episode we were told all the details of the red bus. For example, we were supplied with images of Michelle Ryan and David Tennant on the bus and we were privy to the news that the bus had been damaged in transit to Dubai. David Tennant produced a blog and we saw more of the red bus in his blog.

All this was really interesting and certainly kept my attention, but the none of the pre programme stuff really gave any in depth information on the programme itself. They were all, of course – teasers.

I thought the opening of the programme was really strong. It set a tone and aesthetic which I felt if the programme had sustained would have made an excellent episode. The kind of James Bond/Jewell thief cliche could have been developed, but apart from Lady Christina de Souza carting round a bag full of tools and being able to get the diamond and clamps, this aspect wasn’t really developed.

Ok, so the episode moved on and there was the London bus on a rainy evening and maybe things would develop well from this. The idea that the Doctor catches a bus is wonderful, there are so many ways this could be developed and then the bus goes through a wormhole and everything is very disjointed from then on.

The title suggested for me something like Sixth Sense and having a character who had a kind of sixth sense gave the impression that we would really feel surounded by ghosts and not, as it turned out, on a planet which had been invaded by a swarm of insects, or stingrays – I wasn’t sure what.

The bus in the middle of the desert at times looked like a toy bus on the beach. As I knew this was Dubai it felt too much like a London bus in Dubai.

Captain Erisa Magambo is a great character, but UNIT and no Martha or mention of Martha baffled me slightly and I didn’t get the Professor at all.

This is Doctor Who and there were good moments, such as the Doctor’s teeth , but not the bus flying off at the end – why?.

This episode did not explore a concept in the detail and really take an idea forward as other episodes such as ‘Gridlock’ (traffic jams), ‘The Sontaron Strategem‘ (SatNav) or ‘Rise of Cyberman‘ do. As a viewer I could see the possibilities as if the production team had set some really exciting possiblities up, but had then tried to create an episode of a patchwork of unrelated ideas. Normally this would be great, but on this occasion it didn’t work for me.

I am now looking forward to ‘The Waters of Mars’, but maybe staying clear of the pre show publicity and hoping for a classic episode.