Top Lists of 2013

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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).

Exhibitions

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)

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2011

In 2011, the sublime was a popular topic of discussion. At the National Theatre there was Frankenstein and  in the John Martin exhibition at the Tate, the sublime was on show in a spectacular way. The John Martin exhibition was my favourite exhibition of the year. The epic was presented on grand canvases, but what I loved was getting really close to the paintings to see the detail. Earthly worlds melted into fantastical worlds and where one started and the other finished it was really hard to see.  I missed out on seeing Jonny Lee Miller as the creature, but glad I got to see Benedict Cumberbatch in the role in April.

Though I was delighted by the great John Martin exhibition on a trip to Manchester, I was also impressed by the Ford Maddox Brown exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery. It was good to see other works alongside Work.

The Royal Shakespeare Company came home to perform in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in February.  Some of the productions that I liked  in 2011 were at the end of the long ensemble’s run, but I also looked forward to what the new company arriving.  In Stratford, there seemed to be so many ‘opening’  nights that every time I went to Stratford was some kind of event – the first night, the press night, and the queen opening the new theatre.  I was lucky to get tickets to see Katy Stephen play Cleopatra in a much more stripped down emotional version of the long ensemble’s Antony and Cleopatra  in the Swan theatre.  When the opening nights were over, the last night of the long ensemble seemed to happen so quickly.  The last day  that the long ensemble performed in Stratford was a great occasion because I saw three plays in a day and the last time I would see Rupert Goold’s Romeo and Juliet.  The long ensembles’ last work in Britain was three new plays at Hampstead Theatre.

Kathryn Hunter’s Cleopatra got mixed reviews. It was a performance I had grown to like, and I was so pleased I got to see her in Kafka’s Monkey in July. This was a polished and extraordinary piece of physical theatre.

The new company arrived at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre with a Macbeth and a thought-provoking Merchant of Venice. The critics seemed to prefer A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but out of the three main house Shakespeare productions, I thought this was the least inventive and exciting.  This was a production with Bottom wearing his packed lunch in inventive ways as he sleeps with the fairy queen and which the real world transformed into the woods in such a way, we were meant to feel that elements of the court world were seeping into the dream world.  Michael Boyd’s Macbeth played with time and the souls of the dead haunting the stage.  Rupert Goold’s Merchant of Venice gave Portia a central role in a production set in Las Vegas.   However, the joy for me was the Homecoming at the Swan.  This was a beautifully nuanced piece of work and for me beautifully captured the tone and mood of play.

Beauty was on show in the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the National Galley and in Eddie Redmayne’s Richard II at the Donmar Warehouse. Unlike the John Martin exhibition it was so hard to get up clue to anything in the popular National Gallery show. It was so nice to be directed through the gallery past the other Renaissance pairings to the exhibition around the Last Supper.  I really enjoyed Redmayne’s performance as Richard falling apart in from to me.

In other Shakespearean productions, Kevin Spacey’s Richard III which was fantastic and brutal and The Tempest at the Haymarket was a little plodding with a nice performance from Nicholas Lyndhust.

I found the Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World (British Museum) fascinating, and  I felt that I should have enjoyed the Grayson Perry at the British Museum more than I did.  I was drawn to the Glamour of the Gods at the National Portrait Gallery, which is always a great place to visit before a matinée.

I saw five different production of Hamlet in 2011, starting the year with the wonderful production at the National Theatre, and finishing with Michael Sheen’s performance in the Young Vic’s production  which was set in a mental hospital.   The other Hamlets were the Northern Broadsides, the RSC Young Person’s wonderful production and the Globe’s touring production.

I saw three different Comedy of Errors.  The year with the magnificent all male Propeller  Company production in Sheffield and finished the year with the National’s lively production. Lenny Henry was spot on with the verse and the set really worked on the large Olivier stage. Though both these productions were superb, I also really liked the RSC Young Person’s version which I saw for the first time when it was last performed  in April.

Not all the cultural events have been memorable. In thinking about the past year, I’d totally forgotten about seeing Twelfth Night at the National Theatre until I heard someone on the radio saying that Charles Edwards was their choice for actor of the year. They reminded me that not only had he been a superb Benedick, but he’d also been a decent Sir Andrew in a dull production at the National Theatre.

Much Ado About Nothing scaffolded the year for me personally . It had been a long time since I’d seen a production, nd then two excellent, but very different productions came along. I loved the Globe’s detailed production and Eve Best’s wonderful performance as Beatrice. I was so surprised when she played the ‘Kill Claudio’ line for laughs. Over the river at the Wyndham’s Theatre was the commercial 1980’s concept production which I saw many times starting with the first night. It was great fun and the performances from David Tennant and  Catherine Tate were great and totally in context in this production. There was some comment that the audience only laughed because they saw David Tennant on stage, but when Alex Beckett took over from David Tennant for two nights the laughs came in the same places and it seemed the audience enjoyed the production and still gave it a standing ovation.

…..and my highlight of 2011 was Adam James’ Don Pedro in the Wyndham’s Much Ado About Nothing. It was a wonderful performance that seemed to catch the character so well.  James made everything look so easy, but actually it was his supporting performance that made it possible for Tate and Tennant to give great comic performances.

Hamlet (Donmar at the Wyndhams, 27th June 2009)

The reason, I wanted to blog was because I wanted to respond in writing to things I’d seen or read or experienced. The intention was never to write reviews like those found in newspapers, but to comment on what I had thought about while watching, reading or viewing. When I walked out of the Jude Law Hamlet, I thought the only way I can respond in Miching Malicho is to compare to David Tennant’s portrayal of Hamlet, because all I kept thinking was that’s the way the RSC did it and they made more out of that line etc. Then I thought that I needed to consider this production on its own merits, because it wasn’t Greg Doran’s production, and it was trying to do something different. I had to remember I’d seen the Doran production five times, so was familiar with much of the blocking etc. Indeed, I enjoy seeing several versions of the same play in a short period of time, and I find this very rewarding, but at times, watching this Hamlet, it felt like the creative team had seen other versions and thought we can’t do that, we’ll have to stay safe.

Most of the characters wore black, so if felt that they were still in mourning, it didn’t make Hamlet’s dress and behaviours seem odd. Indeed, it felt like many of the characters wanted to be Hamlet. For example, when Laertes (Alex Waldmann) returns from France he isn’t full of anger, but rather shocked at the death of his father. It, therefore, doesn’t take much for Claudius to disarm him. Ophelia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) tended to be static in her mad scenes. There might have been a reason for this, but it wasn’t that obvious to me. There was a lot of just passing by and noticing someone on stage. For example, this happens when Gertrude enters to convey the news that Ophelia has drowned. Instead of having motivated himself to kill Claudio in his ‘witching time of night’ speech, it felt like Hamlet was just about to get himself a cup of cocoa and stumbles on Claudius praying rather than seeking him out.

I felt that some of the other aspects of the production could have been thought through more. Gertrude (Penelope Wilton) drinks the poison as if she just thinks it is a drink. The players dress in white, but why are they still hanging round court when Claudius (Kevin R McNally) has shouted for lights with such force. I’m not sure they would still be hanging round Hamlet when things have gone so wrong for them. The King’s wassails are a little simper, and I didn’t get a sense of the ‘bloated king’ having a good time. Another interesting aspect, but rather curious was the staging of the bedchamber scene. The audience’s viewpoint was from Polinius’s (Ron Hill) point of view and we are not clear what is going on as our view is blurred. We see Polonius killed from our side of a white sheet which ends up shrouding Polonius. It was a nice idea, but I couldn’t really work out why do this. There was no sense that as an audience we were watching the rest of the events through Polonius’ eyes or meant to feel sympathy for Polonius.

There’s so nice touches such as ‘To be or not to be’ in the snow. Generally, Jude Law spoke his soliloquies to the audience with such force and anger. He is sensitive to Ophelia cupping her face in his hands in the nunnery scene, and there is one humorous moment when he moves Claudius and Gertrude’s thrones apart before ‘The Mousetrap’. I felt this was Law’s production. He was a very good Hamlet, and rather dominated with his angry young man. Though lacking in the humour of Tennant’s performance, it was a good performance overall.

Reviews and Previews

Guardian Review of Jude Law’s Hamlet
Ind o S- review of Jude Law Hamlet
Independent article on Hamlet
BBC NEWS Programmes Newsnight Newsnight R…
Observer Hamlet review
Spectator Review of Hamlet
Independent Review of Jude Law’s Hamlet
FT Jude Law Hamlet
The Stage / News / Wilton and Eyre to join Gran…
Candian review of Hamlet
Talking to Penelope Wilton (Gertrude) – Times O…
Theatre preview: Hamlet, London Stage The G…
London Theatre’s Review of the Jude Law Hamlet
Jude Law on Hamlet Evening Standard
Playbill News: Jude Law Is Hamlet, Beginning Ma…
Times Review of Jude Law Hamlet
Evening Standard review of Hamlet
Photos of Jude Law Hamlet
The Guardian review of the reviews of Jude Law Hamlet
Jude Law and Michael Grandage discuss Hamlet at…
Sunday Time review of Jude Law Hamlet
Theatre preview: Hamlet, London Stage The G…
Hamlet, at Wyndham’s Theatre – review
Hamlet Donamar – Interview with Ophelia
Official London, Jude Law Hamlet
What’s On Stage – Review of Hamlet
The Mail compares critics
Hamlet – Law/Tennant (Times)
Kevin Mcnally as Claudius
Stage Review of Hamlet

Who is Hamlet

I couldn’t help making another Doctor Who and Hamlet connection when I saw the images of Jude Law performing ‘To be or not to be’ in the snow and thinking of those images of David Tennant as the Doctor’s apparent last moments staggering through the snow.