Measure for Measure (The Swan Theatre)

There was a strangeness about this production, and it reminded me of  the television programme Tales of the Unexpected.  There was a conjuring Duke  (Raymond Coulthard) who did slight of hand tricks, but the biggest trick of them all would be the bed trick.  The Duke attempted to connect with the audience, but there was also a darkness in this production which was emphasised in the colours and mood conveyed by the set.

The production explored sex in different contexts. We saw examples of S and M, love (Claudio and Juliet), and desire.

Where this production was let down was that there was no spark or chemistry between Angelo (Jamie Beamish) and Isabella (Jodie McNee). I just couldn’t see how this tightly dressed man could  be attracted to Isabella. Where Isabella should have passion in her pleading for her brother’s life there wasn’t any. However, there were some really good performances from Bruce Alexander as the Provost and Geoffrey Beevers as Escalus.  Joseph Kloska was great as Pompey.  His ad libbing was very appropriate and he did extremely well to involve the audience in the production.  At one point he noted me and pointed out my red hair to everyone in the audience.

I felt that the production didn’t use the thrust stage as well as it could, at times it felt like it could have been in a proscenium  arch theatre, as often the action felt as if it was framed.

At times the production felt a little slow, but it was enormously intriguing and that was what kept my attention.

Reviews

Measure for Measure, RSC Swan, Stratford Upon Avon – review | Theatre

Measure for Measure, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon – Reviews – Theatre & Dance – The Independent

Measure for Measure – review | Stage | The Guardian

Measure for Measure, RSC, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, review – Telegraph

The Stage / Reviews / Measure for Measure

Blogs

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Short Review: Bingo (Young Vic, 3rd March 2012)

This is a very strange play and at the end of it, I wasn’t clear at all about what it was about. Patrick Stewart plays Shakespeare in his retirement at New Place. There are scenes with his daughter Judith and also the servants. Maybe the play was about the banality of Shakespeare’s later life when he had retired in Stratford and had given up writing, but at times it was a little tedious. Even the historical context around enclosure was lost in a play that didn’t seem to have a structure of narrative arc. The best bit of the play was the scene between Shakespeare and Ben Jonson in the pub. Richard McCabe does drinking very well. His performance reminded me of his recent performance as Sir Toby Belch in Greg Doran’s Royal Shakespeare Company Twelfth Night.

The play followed seasons starting at the end of summer (the last sun) and then through Spring and Autumn finishing in Winter (the last snow). The final scene was in Shakespeare’s bedroom.

There were too many clunky scene changes and fussy stage business that actually distracted from the action. The play was well acted, but didn’t have enough in it to keep my attention.

Previews and Reviews

Bingo, Young Vic, London – FT.com

Bingo, Young Vic, London – Reviews – Theatre & Dance – The Independent

Bingo, Young Vic, review – Telegraph

Bingo – review | Stage | The Guardian

Bingo, Young Vic – review – Theatre & Dance – Arts – Evening Standard

In Other Blogs

Blog: Bingo « Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

Blog: Review – Bingo, Young Vic « West End Whingers

Short Review: Top Girls (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 6th March 2012)

If this was just the first Act then I would really love it, because that first scene is great, but the rest of the play felt very dated.  I realise that overall Top Girls is beautifully structured, and the doubling is intriguing.   However, I felt the play now lacks elements of freshness and surprise. The play is set in the eighties and explores ambition.  The first scene introduces to a range of historical characters who tell us their stories.  This includes Pope Joan talking about how she gave beth to a baby in the street and  Izabella Bird who talks about her life as a traveller.  The scene is beautifully choreographed and some of the most entertaining moments are when the characters talk over each other.  Top Girls is really Marlene’s story (Caroline Catz). She’s an ambitious business woman, a daughter of Thatcherism.  The play shows her to be rather callous giving up her daughter to pursue her career.

There is a twist at the end if the play, but the problem for me was that  I could see it coming.

Previews and Reviews

Review: Top Girls, Out Of Joint/Chichester Festival Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until March 10 (From York Press)

Johan Zoffany RA. Society Preserved (Royal Academy)

This is a bustling exhibition with a fantastic selection of  the eighteenth-century artist  Johan Zoffany’s work.  The exhibition is arranged in themes which presents very useful comparisons. There’s a sense of Zoffany observing the society around him, hence the title, but the observations often have a sense of  humour and mischief.

The exhibition shows Zoffany as the theatre artist interested in capturing a moment in performance. For example the portrait of Thomas King as Touchstone in As You Like It attempts to present a portrait of an actor as if captured in the Forest of Arden rather as if he is on stage.  The portrait od Garrick and Mrs Pritchard in Give Me the Daggers (from Macbeth) is clearly a portrait of the two actors as if on stage.  It was great seeing this painting next to David Garrick and Mrs Cibber as Jaffier and Belvidera in Venice Preserv’d because it illustrates how much Garrick holding the dagger could be taken from a scene from Macbeth.  

This exhibition also presents Zoffany as the court painter with George III in his red jacket and a pendent piece showing Queen Charlotte with a beautiful blue dress and complemented by the pink flowers and cerise drape.  As you leave this room there is a portrait of the royal family with George III in the Apollo Belvedere pose, which illustrates Zoffany’s interest in the ‘Old Masters’.

For me the most interesting images are those of the Royal Academy. I have always been intrigued by The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy.  Zoffany looks out at the viewer from the corner  and Joshua Reynolds is portrayed with his hearing aid. The two female Academicians are present as portraits behind the male nude because they weren’t allowed to be present. The accompanying catalogue usefully identifies each Academician.

In one of the last rooms is a collection of works with India as the subject matter. These are glimpses of a colonial past.  There’s something of the gothic in some of these pairings and I thought of Joseph Wright of Derby, and artist I wouldn’t normally think of when looking at Zoffany’s work.

This is a fantastic exhibition. It’s well worth visiting and much quieter than the Hockney exhibition downstairs. At least here is the time and space to really look at the pairings and think about them.

References

Postle, Martin ed (2011) Johann Zoffany RA. Society Observed. Yale University