What happened to the RSC's long ensemble?

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The RSC long ensemble gala in the Swan 2011. The gala was to raise funds for James Gale and his family.

Updated 6th January 2013. Thanks to updates from RSC long ensemble audience members.

After I saw Debbie Korley and Dharmesh Patel in the RSC’s young people’s King Lear at the Theatre Royal in York recently, I started to wonder what the rest of the RSC’s long ensemble were dong now. I had seen some of long ensemble working in the theatre over the past year, and heard about other things they’d done since the long ensemble project ended after a residency New York in the Summer of 2011. The long ensemble was made up of 44 actors and started in Stratford in the Spring of 2009 with As You Like It (dir by Michael Boyd) and The Winter’s Tale (dir by David Farr). These two plays were joined in the Summer of 2011 by Lucy Bailey’s Julius Caesar. For me the success of the long ensemble came the year after with Rupert Goold’s Romeo and Juliet and David Farr’s King Lear. Both plays played with time and space and for me the plays worked well with the transition from the Courtyard theatre to the new RST (via Newcastle and the Roundhouse). It was the long ensemble that opened the new RST and brought the RSC home – so to speak. The partnership between Jonjo O’Neill and Sam Troughton, as Mercutio and Romeo, brought an energy to the project, but also demonstrated how a partnership built up over a period of time could work so well.

I am sure that it was hoped that the actors and directors would move on to other things, and that some would return to the RSC.

There’s been a few long ensemble reunions in 2012. The first was the Duchess of Malfi reuniting Adam Burton and Tunji Kasim at the Old Vic. Another reunion was down the road from the Old Vic, at the Young Vic, where Sam Troughton, Mariah Gale and Gruffudd Glyn could be seen in Three Sisters. As well as Three Sisters it seems that Sam Troughton has been very busy since he left the long ensemble. He was in A Streetcar Named Desire in Liverpool, and Love, Love, Love at the Royal Court, as well as The Town on television. Mariah Gale is currently in Gruesome Playground Injuries at the Gate Theatre.

Later in the year, at the Old Vic, after being in Children’s Children at the Almeida, Darrell D’Silva was in the very successful Hedda Gabler. Forbes Masson will be playing Banquo alongside James McAvoy’s Macbeth Westminster studios. was in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, plating Mr Tumnus, for Threesixty Theatre in Kensington Gardens. The production was directed by long ensemble director Rupert Goold. He also starred in the Belgrade Theatres Crackers. There were also glimpses of Forbes supporting Melanie Masson’s on ITV’s X Factor.

The RSC women seemed to have done well since the long ensemble project ended and I enjoyed, Noma Dumezweni, Katy Stephens and Mariah Gale’s audio performances as the three witches from Macbeth in the Staging Shakespeare exhibition at the British Museum. Noma Dumezweni was also in Bola Agbaje’s play, Belong, at the Royal Court in the Spring of 2012 and will be in The Feast at the young Vic from February. I managed to see Katy Stephens, who was excellent in Calixto Bieito’s Forests, but missed her playing Laura in The Father at the Belgrade theatre in Coventry. Katy is currently playing the fairy in the Belgrade Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty. Kirsty Woodward was fantastic in Kneehigh’s Steptoe and Son, which I saw at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and at the start of 2012, I saw her in The Way of the World Sheffield Crucible.

Kathryn Hunter joined the long ensemble in the second year of the project, and made a quick exit in the middle of the Roundhouse season. She went on to revive her as Peter the Red Ape in Kafka’s Monkey, which I thought was a stunning piece of physical theatre and then returned to the RSC in A Tender Thing this autumn.

One thing that has been surprising is how few of the long ensemble returned to Stratford after the long ensemble project finished. Though Jonjo O’Neill returned to the RSC in a very successful Richard III in the summer of 2012, it has taken awhile for a group of actors to return to the RSC to work together. Indeed, it has taken over a year for four members of the long ensemble to work together again in the Swan in Stratford. Adam Burton, Paul Hamilton, Patrick Romer, and James Tucker are now back in Stratford performing in the long ensemble in the Swan and Ansu Kabia is playing Nim in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Greg Hicks will return to the RSC in 2013 to play Claudius in Hamlet. Oliver Ryan is another member of the long ensemble to return to Stratford for the 1013 Summer season, and long ensemble director, David Farr, will be directing Hamlet.

Sadly Peter Shorey and James Gale have passed away.

And what happened to the other long ensemble directors? After directing a very good Taming of the Shrew for the RSC Winter season 2012, Lucy Bailey returns to the RSC for the Winter 2013 to direct The Winter’s Tale. Greg Doran,who directed the long ensemble interlude, Morte D’Arthur, took over the RSC as Artistic Director in September 2012 and I am now awaiting the announcement of his first season. He is currently directing The Orphan of Zhao in the Swan.

And the Artistic director, Michael Boyd what’s he doing now? Well, he left the RSC in September 2012, but his final production as a director at the RSC, Boris Godunov is now in the Swan.

I think some people felt that the long ensemble was too large to work well, and that many of the actors didn’t really get chance to use to really shine. However, the long ensemble did give some actors a chance to play a range of parts. Sam Troughton showed he could play both the lead and bit parts with great skill. Indeed, he produced was exceptional as a Lord in The Winter’s Tale and entertaining as an energetic and angry Romeo in Rupert Goold’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s no surprise to see that Sam Troughton has gone on to play a range of parts since leaving the RSC, and his Mercutio, Jonjo O’Neill, has also shown his range and he is getting great reviews at the National Theatre in The Effect,

Other actors, who showed some promise in the long ensemble do not seem to have done other things. For example, Dyfan Dwyfor played a much more emotional Romeo than Troughton, when I saw him understudy Troughton early in the Straford run. I have not seen that Dwyfor has been in the theatre, since leaving the RSC and even the long ensemble has not changed the transient nature of most actors’ lives. I am hoping that Debbie Korley and Dharmesh Patel will go on to do more than the Young People’s Shakespeare. Both have demonstrated through this vehicle that they can do more than waiting women and bit parts and I look forward to seeing them in other things in the future.

I will have missed many long ensemble appearances, so please let me know of any others that are not here, or about anything you’ve seen with an actor from the long ensemble in it.

Update 10th March 2013

I have recently see Noma Dumezweni in Feast at the Young Vic theatre and Sam Troughton in Bull at Sheffield Crucible. Katy Stephens and David Rubin are also returning to Stratford over the Summer to work in the Swan.

 

My Long ensemble blogs

The Winter’s Tale and As You Like It

As You Like It, Newcastle 2009

Katy Stephens’ Hair

Julius Caesar

The RSC ensemble debate

King Lear

Romeo and Juliet

RSC, South Bank Show

The RSC Comes Home

Romeo and Juliet again

Antony and Cleopatra part 1

Antony and Cleopatra part 2

RSC Revealed

New Writing at the Hampstead Theatre

Full details about the long ensemble project can be found here.

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Short Review: A Christmas Carol (Flanagan Collective, Lion and Lamb York)

Last night, I went to the A Christmas Carol dining experience at the Lion and Lamb, a pub in the centre of York.  This is a show directed by Tom Bellerby for the Flanagan Collective.

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The show is a mix of theatre and a dining experience.  As we enjoyed a drink in the bar of the Lion and Lamb, we were  invited by the ghost Marley (John Holt-Roberts) to cheer miserable Scrooge  (Ed Wren) up on Christmas Eve.  We left the bar and go into the street where we are invited into Scrooge’s home, which is also the front room of the pub.  Here the show begins. The experience is a mix of drama, music, and party games, as well as eating and a drink of mulled wine.

This is the kind of show you would see at the Edinburgh festival.  It is intimate and fun, and a great way to celebrate at Christmas time.  It is an audience participation show, but no one is embarrassed and it is great to see the two actors put everyone at ease so that the audience can go along with the concept and join in when appropriate.  The show is well structured and all the elements work well together.  There are some lovely surprises, so it would be mean of me to spoil them here on my blog.

This was a Christmas present and a lovely way to spend a Thursday evening at Christmas.  I understand that tickets are selling fast, so you’ll need to book to ensure you get a place.  The ticket price includes the show, food and drink.

Reviews and Further Information

Backstage Pass

The York Press Review

Flanagan Collective Facebook Page

 

Looking forward to Shakespeare in 2013

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2013 will be another year for celebrity Shakespeare. James McAvoy will play Macbeth early in the year. The Michael Grandage season continues with David Walliams and Sheridan Smith staring in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Jude Law in Henry V.  In autumn, at the Old Vic,  Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones will be playing Beatrice and Bendick in Much Ado About Nothing.  Yet to go on sale, but not a surprise, Adrian Lester will play Othello at the National Theatre.

In Stratford, there are lots to look forward to, particularly the Alex Waldman and Pippa Nixon reunion in As You Like It and again in Hamlet with Jonathan Slinger in the title role.  Joining As You Like It and Hamlet on the RST main stage will be All’s Well that End’s Well, and in the Swan theatre there is a Titus Andronicus.

At the Globe, I’m looking forward to The Tempest, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The RSC and the Globe are bringing their Shakespeare  to York with The Winter’s Tale and  a Henry VI season.

There has been a taste for concept Shakespeare recently. The Wyndham’s Much Ado About Nothing and Rupert Goold’s The Merchant of Venice split audiences and the critics, but were very interesting interpretations. Will 2013 bring another surprise?  It looks like the Globe will continue with its original practice approach, and there is talk that the RSC Hamlet might return to renaissance dress.

With most of the summer and autumn mapped out, I am waiting with anticipation, and excitement, for the announcement of Greg Doran’s first season as artistic director of the RSC.  What will be the RSC’s winter season be like?  I doubt we’ll see another long ensemble project, but I think we’ll see the return of the ‘celebrity’ actor to the RSC. I’m sure we’ll know soon.

2012

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2012 was the year that I kept thinking, I will blog about that and then never got round to it.  I always wanted to write some longer pieces on some of the productions, but I put it off, because I am working on a larger project that is taking up my time at the moment.  I will have to do better in 2013.  It was a year that we were warned to stay away from London, to avoid  transport chaos during the Olympics.  I don’t think tube delays happened, but I spent most of the summer in Stratford instead of London this year.

The highlight of the year for me was the RSC’s King John and Alex Waldmann’s death scene as he dances to a slightly speeded up Frankie Valli’s ‘Beggin”.  I really enjoyed the wedding scene and the night I sang ‘Say a Little Prayer’ with King John was something I will remember for a long time to come.  I have decided that the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing ends up as my second highlight of 2012 .  I toyed with a joint second with the RSC’s Richard III, but in the end I think Much Ado just nudged ahead because it ended up summing up my summer for me.  I saw it one last time in London, and  the music, colours and ensemble performances had stuck in my mind.

Though the RSC’s Richard III was my third highlight, of course, this was also Jonjo O’Neill’s year.  Firstly, in Richard III and then in The Effect with Billie Piper.  The Effect gets my top spot in the theatre (other than Shakespeare) section. It was a lovely structured play and the two central performances were just great.  The best moment  in The Effect was Jonjo’s tap dance.  I saw Richard III so many times and got to know it well.  I also saw it grow and develop over the year.  it was a funny and clear production, and Jonjo was the master showman, a perfect Richard.

The RSC wasn’t all good.  The shipwreck season was very much a disappointment and Troilus and Cressida – well what can say further about it other than what I blogged in August?

As the summer was ending, I caught the original practice productions at  Richard III and Twelfth Night at The Globe.  I had really enjoyed the Globe’s Taming of the Shrew, mainly because Jamie Beamish was in it.

There are several Royal Court productions in my top theatre section including In Basildon which was very close to the top of my theatre list.

I saw a few exhibitions and paid many visits to the Shakespeare exhibition at the British Museum.  I really enjoyed the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain, and will visit at least one more time before it closes.

Here’s my top lists for 2012:

Shakespeare

1.King John (RSC, The Swan)

2. Much Ado About Nothing RSC, Noel Coward and The Courtyard).

3. Richard III  (RSC, The Swan)

4. Taming of the Shrew (RSC, RST).

5. Julius Caesar (RSC, Theatre Royal Newcastle)

6. Richard III (The Globe)

7.The Winter’s Tale (Propeller, Lyceum, Sheffield)

8. Twelfth Night (The Globe)

9. Timon of Athens (National Theatre)

10. Taming of the Shrew (The Globe)

11. Macbeth (Sheffield Crucible)

12. Henry V (Propeller, Lowry Salford)

13. Henry V (The Globe)

14. Antony and Cleopatra (Oyun Atölyesi company, The Globe)

15. Measure for Measure (RSC, RST)

16. Love Labour’s Lost (Northern Broadsides, The Dukes & York Theatre Royal)

17. Twelfth Night (RSC, RST)

18. The Tempest (RSC, RST)

19. Troilus and Cressida (RSC/Wooster Group, The Swan)

20. The Comedy of Errors (RSC, RST)

Theatre 

1. The Effect (National Theatre)

2. In Basildon (Royal Court)

3. Posh (Royal Court in the West End, Duke of York)

4. She Stoops to Conquer (National Theatre)

5. The Recruiting Officer (Donmar)

6. The Duchess of Malfi (Old Vic)

7. Jumpy (Royal Court in the West End, Duke of York)

8.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It) (Dmitry Krymov’s company RSC)

9.  Hero (The Royal Court)

10. Hedda Gabler (The Old Vic)

11. Miss Julie (Manchester, Royal Exchange)

12. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

13. The Judas Kiss (Hampshire)

14. The Physicists (Donmar)

15. Three Sisters (The Young Vic)

16. The Changeling (The Young Vic)

17.  People (National Theatre)

18. Steptoe and Son (Kneehigh, West Yorkshire Playhouse)

19. Blackta (Young Vic)

20. Privates on Parade (Michael Grandage Company, The Noel Coward Theatre)

Exhibitions

1. PreRaphaelites (Tate Britain)

2. Shakespeare: staging the world (British Museum)

3. Johann Zoffany RA: Society Observed (Royal Academy)

4. David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture (Royal Academy)

5. Lucien Freud (Portraits)

6.  Munch: The promise of modernity

7. Damien Hirst (Tate Modern)

8. Bronze (Royal Academy)

9. Someday all the Adults will die (Haywood Gallery)

10. Edward Munch (The Modern Eye) (Tate Modern)

11. Turner Prize 2012

12. The Lost Prince (National Portrait Gallery)

13. Picasso and Modern British Art (Tate Britain)

14. Hajj: Journey into the Heart of Islam (British Museum)

15. Yavoi Kusama (Tate Modern)

16. Royal Academy Summer Show

17. A Bigger Splash. Painting after Performance. (Tate Modern)

18. The Queen (National Portrait Gallery)

19. John Martin (at the Tate Britain for the few days that it was still open in Jan 2012, but this was my highlight of 2011).

20. William Klein + Daido Moriyama (Tate Modern).