Little Eagles, Silence, and American Trade (Hampstead Theatre)

I decided to go to the three new plays at the Hampstead Theatre, as part of  the RSC long ensemble project.  To do this required some complex travel arrangements and a hit on my budget. I’d been watching this long ensemble for three years, and really wanted to see their final performances together on British soil before the project finished. After that very special last matinée/evening performances of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet in April, there was just one last chance to see the long ensemble, and I wanted to make sure I was there.

I did enjoy the actors’ performances, and it was good seeing them in the different character roles, especially Debbie Korley who was really funny as Girl Wonder, and Kirsty Woodward in American Trade. I felt the new plays gave the actors the opportunity to show their range, and have a go at different things. I thought Noma Dumezweni and Darrell D’Silva gave fantastic performances in Little Eagles and I thought Katy Stephens, Christine  Entwistle, Jonjo O’Neil were also superb in Silence. However, I felt that the actors in general didn’t have enough in the plays to work with to demonstrate their outstanding skills. It is not an exaggeration to say that Jonjo O’Neill has performed the best Mercutio I’ve ever seen, and Katy Stephens’s Goneril and then her Cleopatra are highly developed nuanced performances. Noma Dumezweni’s nurse and Paulina were wonderful interpretations and Greg Hicks’ Lear took me on his emotional journey every time I saw it. This new writing just didn’t reach those depths in the same way. It’s not a draw just to see an actor in a thong, especially the actor who was so excellent as Gloucester. For me, when we get down to that it becomes slightly voyeuristic in an odd uncomfortable way and watching an actor of Freshwater’s talent playing such a stereotypical role was disappointing, even though he did a good job at it.  It was all a little bit of an anti climax.

I liked the narrative around Little Eagles, that was the thing that kept me enthralled and the actors’ performances.  However, the play itself was a little wordy and slightly clichéd at times. In comparison Silence was a devised piece exploring sound.  Three narratives were intertwined.  I liked the way that the whole stage was used and that the sense of sage and backstage were broken down. I did find that I cared about the characters and what happened to them. In American Trade, I found I didn’t really care what happened about the characters. I think the point was that they were types, and every type that there was crammed in, which at times made it just too much.  I thought the play was funny and it was fun. I did laugh a lot.

I think I enjoyed the three new plays at the Hampstead Theatre, as I might enjoy an evening out with friends.  They were entertaining and it was always a fun and interesting evening/afternoon out. The plays themselves were just not exceptional. What I didn’t feel was the same sense of excitement afterwards as I did watching the long ensemble in the six Shakespeare plays. I wasn’t left with that sense of wanting to see a production again in the way that makes trekking round the country to see the long ensemble really worth it.  However,  I didn’t go and expect Shakespeare, just some really thought-provoking and interesting new writing, that warranted the RSC to bring it alive.

I am glad that I went to see these plays. It was that one last time to see the long ensemble. I wish the long ensemble luck in New York, and thinking about it makes me want to see Romeo and Juliet again for – one more time.

Previews and Reviews

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