Top Lists of 2013


Top Shakespeare

1.  All’s Well That Ends Well, (RSC RST and Theatre Royal Newcastle).
2.  As You Like It (RSC, RST and Theatre Royal Newcastle).
3.  Titus Andronicus (RSC, Swan Theatre).
4.  Julius Caesar (Donmar Warehouse).
5.  The Taming of the Shrew (Propeller, Newcastle Theatre Royal)
6.  Macbeth (Trafalgar Studios).
7.  Richard II (RSC, RST and Barbican).
8.  Othello (National Theatre).
9.  Hamlet (RSC, RST and Theatre Royal Newcastle).
10.  Twelfth Night (Propeller, Newcastle Theatre Royal).
11.  Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse).
12. As You Like it (Globe).
13,  Macbeth (Globe).
14. Henry V (Noel Coward Theatre).
15.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Globe).
16. The Merry Wives of Windsor (RST).
17.  The Winter’s Tale, (RST and York Grand Opera House).
18.  Richard III (York Theatre Royal).
19. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Noel Coward Theatre).
20. The Tempest (Globe).

Top Theatre (Not Shakespeare)

1.  The Effect – Lucy Prebble  (National Theatre).
2.  This House – James Graham (National Theatre).
3.  Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon and Simon Stephens (National Theatre at the Apollo).
4.  Edward II – Christopher Marlowe (National Theatre).
5.  Talk Show  – Alistair McDowall (Royal Court).
6.  A Boy and His Soul  – Colman Domingo (Tricycle).
7.  A Mad World My Masters – Thomas Middleton (Swan).
8.  Jumpers for Goalposts –  Tom Wells (Bush Theatre).
9.  Blink – Phil Porter (Soho Theatre).
10. Chalk Farm  – Kieran Hurley and A.J. Taudevin (Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
11.  There Has Possibly Been an Incident – Chris Thorpe (Northern Stage at St Stephen’s, Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
12.  Same Deep Water as Me – Nick Payne  (Donmar).
13.  Feast -Yunior Garcia Aguilera, Rotimi Babatunde, Marcos Barbosa, Tanya Barfield, Gbolahan Obisesan (Young Vic/Royal Court).
14.  The Victorian in the Wall – Will Aamsdale (Royal Court).
15.  Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist and Jack Thorne (Royal Court)
16.  The Weir – Conor McPherson (Donmar)
17.  Wot? No Fish! – Danny Braverman (Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe Festival)
18.  Home – David Storey (Arcola).
19.  Candide – Mark Ravenhill (Swan).
20.  Choose Your One Documentary – Nathan Pennington (Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe Festival).


1. David Bowie (Victoria and Albert)
2. Pre-Raphaelites (Tate Britain)
3.  Life and Death in Pompeii (British Museum)
4.  Lowry (Tate Britain)
5.  Elizabeth I and Her People (National Portrait Gallery)
6.  Paul Klee (Tate Modern)
7.  Manet. Portraying Life. Royal Academy
8.  Summer Show (Royal Academy)
9.   Peer Doig (National Gallery of Scotland)
10. Glam The Performance of Style (Tate, Liverpool)

The Effect (National Theatre, November 2012- January 2013)

Poster Image for The Effect (c) National Theatre

Experiment begins‘.

The audience is entering the auditorium of the Cottesloe Theatre, and they are also entering the waiting room of the Raushen Pharmaceutical Company where drug  trials will take place.  We are given wristbands to add to the effect that we are also patients in the trial.  Sitting on mustard yellow seats, on the red carpet the  next a small coffee table, I felt I my seat was actually on the set.

Lucy Prebble’s play explores whether falling in love is caused by chemicals in the brain, and whether depression can be cured by drugs, or is triggered by events in people’s lives. The debates are carefully conveyed through the dialogue between the four characters – two trialists and two doctors.

The play is such a success because of the dialogue and structure and because there are some fantastic performances from the cast.  There are two doctors, Toby and Lorna, played by Tom Goodman-Hill  and Anastasia Hille  and two trialists Connie played by Billie Piper  and Tristan played by Jonjo O’Neill.  Billie Piper and JonJo O’Neill were excellent in this production and really made me feel that they had really fallen in love.  Connie who tends to analyse, but when she is falling in love there is a sense of irony that she doesn’t really understand what is happening to her. Billie Piper is able to portray the awkwardness of the early moments of the relationship, such as fiddling with her hair, and the rubbing of the back of her shin with the other foot.  Much of the dialogue is very quick and there is a rhythm to it.  Some of the scenes are overlaid to great effect, and this was a device that the director Rupert Goold also used in his RSC Romeo and Juliet production.

The production is very visual.  Data is projected onto Connie and Tristan’s body and across the floor, as if this is how they might be made up. There’s a very poignant moment towards the end of the production, where Lorna mops up blood, and a brain projected onto the stage floor.

The shift from the clinic to the old asylum adds a lovely contrast and undermines the rigour and routine of the trial.  This is the moment that Tristan and Connie become closer. The highlight, which was Jonjo O’Neill’s tap dance. It reminded me of the time he danced to Mr Bojangles as part of the RSC Gala in 2011.  The Saturday Review reviewer said that the tap dance represented the exhilaration of falling in love, and I thought that was a lovely way to describe it.  The lovers/trialists are interrupted by Lorna and as an audience we don’t get our moment of applause, so I felt denied of my moment of acknowledgement and felt that the trialists had as well.  This makes the frustration conveyed as Connie and Tristan are kept apart after the discovery more relevant.

Just before the interval Tristan and Connie manage to escape the restrictions placed on them and meet in Connie’s room.  There’s a very tender scene between when they eventually make love.  In the interval, someone said to me that they didn’t want their heart broken, and there was a sense then that all would not be well at the end of the play.

The doctor scenes at times seemed a distraction from the young lovers, but they offered a contrast and another angle. I felt that the brain in the bucket was a little too slapstick and even though the TED style speech given by Toby does get across his viewpoint well, it did not work  in relation to the rest of the dialogue.  I think that was because I was so interested in Connie and Tristan, I wanted to see more of their narrative. However, as Lorna’s story was revealed, I was surprised, and as she moved towards the tablets at the end, it was if she’d been dissolved into the illusion that she so much wanted to dispute.

What kept me engaged throughout was that I felt I was so close to the performance both physically and emotionally.

Connie and Tristan walk off stage at the end of the play as Ingrid Michaelson’s ‘Keep Breathing’ is playing, it made me feel that there was some hope.

The Effect runs until Feb 23rd at the National Theatre.

Reviews (all links are to external sites)

What happened to the RSC's long ensemble?

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.



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:


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)


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)


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).

Looking for Richard III (RSC March to Sept 2012 and The Globe, 29th September 2012)

IMG 1855

It’s often the case that there are several productions of the same Shakespeare play around at the same time.  I saw the Globe production of Richard III on 29th September after seeing the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) production develop over the summer from its first previews in March until the final performance in September.

The RSC production took a minimalist approach to staging and which made use of light bulbs that descended to indicate a character was about to die.  The costumes suggested that the RSC production had a modern setting, but the inclusion of armour and the sword fight at the end added a timeless element.  On the other hand, the Globe production was an original practice performance. It attempted to represent some of the playing conditions on the original Globe with male actors playing female parts and the audience sitting in the boxes above the stage.  The result of this was a visually stunning production with bright dynamic colours and rich textures.

What was striking when seeing the productions around the same time was the very different approaches to Richard that Mark Rylance at the Globe and Jonjo O’Neill at the RSC took.  Where O’Neill bustled on stage, Rylance, in contrast, bumbled as if surprised at finding himself in the middle of a play.  If Antony Sher was the bottled spider and Simon Russell Beale was the bunch backed toad, then Rylance was more like a hedgehog.  O’Neill did not take the approach of basing his physical appearance on bestial imagery and played Richard with a slight limp and unexaggerated hump.  His Richard was like a moody youth, who did what he did because he could.  One example of this was bawling at Buckingham (Brian Ferguson) that he was not in the giving ‘ vein’ (4.3.105) and storming off stage in a sulk when Buckingham requests his rewards for his support.  O’Neill’s showman Richard developed through the run, playing with the audience, acknowledging an audience member’s sneeze with a ‘bless you’ and directing ‘was ever woman in this humour won’ (1.2.236) to someone sitting on the front row. This showman element was exemplified in O’Neill’s British Museum’s Staging Shakespeare exhibit where he had a look of Robbie Williams, and there was much of the ‘Let Me Entertain You’ in O’Neill’s performance.  Rylance addressed the groundlings in the pit throughout, but without the confidence that O’Neill had shown over the summer.  It was as if he was unsure of himself, and that the play demanded him to  follow the path that he does and he is carried along with it all.

In both productions, there were some very strong performances in the female roles. The absence of Margaret in the Globe production felt strange. Paola Dionisotti had delivered such a powerful performance in the RSC production that Margaret’s presence had become a beat underneath the action. Dionisotti’s Margaret stamped her foot on the metal stage as she cursed the court, making her prophesies hard to forget as characters moved closer to there deaths.  Siobhan Redmond’s Elizabeth played the grieving mother with great effect, and Pippa Nixon’s performance as Anne was sharp and nuanced and when she spat in Richard’s face the audience gasped (1.2).  In the Globe production Samuel Barnett’s Elizabeth made a bold move and took control by kissing Richard at the end of 4.4, an approach I’d not seen before.

One of the strengths of the RSC production was in the supporting roles. Alex Waldmann’s Catesby was a particular example of an excellent supporting performance, and he always seemed to be there in the background, and encouraging the citizens to support Richard (4.1). He presented Catesby as a geeky character wearing glasses in the first half, but growing in confidence alongside Richard as Richard moves closer to the throne. There was an incredible performance from Iain Bachelor as Richmond, who felt very much like the nation’s saviour.  His ‘why then ’tis time to arm and give direction’ (5.3) speech not only seemed to motivate the soldiers in his camp, but the audience as well. Joshua Jenkins’ and Neal Barry’s murderers were a very comic double act, and Edmund Kingsley made a walk so effective and moving as Clarence purposely crossed the stage to the bed where he would die.  The bed was placed in the same place as Henry’s coffin had in 1.2, drawing attention to Clarence’s ‘royal’ persona, but also foreshadowing the murder.

In the RSC production, the scenes with the citizens and Lord Mayor were almost slapstick. These showed Richard to be both manipulative, and a comedian at the first time.  As the lights went down on the first half, O’Neill would grin at the audience and sometimes wave. As an audience, we were clearly meant to enjoy this, but we were also complicit with Richard in his machinations.

The sword fight in the RSC production made the most of the small Swan stage and the close proximity of the audience. It was energetic, exciting and unnerving and there were actual sparks generated when the swords clashed.   At the end, the RSC production took a motif from Michael Boyd’s 2011 RSC Macbeth. The ghost of the young Prince ran on stage to distract Richard, and that’s when he is overthrown by Richmond. The Globe went one step further and all the ghosts appeared, but this seemed rather excessive and did not work well.

The lights came up at the end of the RSC production to signal the new regime. The Globe production brought close through the dance. In a play where Richard has two-thirds of the lines, there’s a lot for the actors to work with and O’Neill and Rylance took different perspectives of Richard’s character and presented both villain and comedian in different ways and held the audience’s attention throughout.

Reviews and Previews

Richard III Globe 2012

The Stage / Reviews / Richard III

Mark Rylance in Richard III, Globe Theatre, review – Telegraph

Blog Richard III – Shakespeare’s Globe « Gareth’s Culture and Travel Blog

Blog: There Ought To Be Clowns: Review: Richard III, Shakespeare’s Globe

Richard III, Globe Theatre, London The Doctor’s Dilemma, Lyttelton, National Theatre, London – Reviews – Theatre & Dance – The Independent

Richard III, Shakespeare’s Globe, London –

Richard III; The Doctor’s Dilemma; The Fire Garden – reviews | Stage | The Observer

Richard III – review | Stage | The Guardian

Richard III RSC 2012

Richard III, RSC, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, review – Telegraph

Blog: Battle of Richard III’s part 1: RSC’s Jonjo O’Neill (Rev Stan’s theatre blog)

A northern light on Shakespeare’s ‘broken’ mona…

Richard III, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK –

Richard III – review | Stage | The Guardian

The Stage / Reviews / Richard III

Blog: Partially Obstructed View: Theatre review: Richard III (RSC / Swan)

References are to the Macmillan/RSC text