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)

Places and Spaces and the play of two halves. The Winter's Tale (Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Grand Opera House, York)


Much has been made of the thrust stage in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST)  and how it would change the way the RSC approached its productions. I was particularly fascinated by the way that a production could be developed for both a thrust stage and a proscenium arch tour. That’s why I wanted to see their latest production of The Winter’s Tale in both York (at the Grand Opera House) and at the RST in Stratford Upon Avon. I was particularly interested in how this production transferred from one playing space to another, and whether it would look considerably different in each space.

The obvious change was that at the Grand Opera House, the actors played out front and at points Jo Stone-Fewings (as Leontes) sat on the edge of the stage to deliver some of his soliloquies.   The set design was heavily influenced by Pre-Raphaelite painting in the first part of the play and seaside postcards in the second half of the play. The programme discussed this idea in some detail, and what struck me was that this idea worked much better watching it in front of a proscenium arch than it did from the side of the stalls in Stratford.  The first half of the production played on a fantasy, and a relaxed recreational way of life that  resembled an early Pre-Raphaelite painting in its detail.  As the production moves on and Leontes becomes increasingly paranoid and jealous, the production darkens and becomes more threatening.  For example, the characters moved from bright clothes into dark suits. In the second half, when the  play moves on sixteen years the action moves to a Northern seaside resort.  I was given the impression that the two places being different aspects of the same country and this is reinforced by Leontes presence on stage, as he looks down from a tower during the second part of the play.

One of the key features of Lucy Bailey’s The Winter’s Tale was the use of a multimedia background. I felt that the multimedia in her production of Julius Caesar was problematic and though in this production the multimedia worked much better,  it did not add much to the production overall and at times became very distracting. On the back of the stage was projected a seascape that presented the changing seasons, locations and shifts of mood. On the Royal Shakespeare Theatre thrust stage the multimedia was not as effective at  all from the sides of the thrust stage.   In some seats it was difficult to see the bear appear.   However, the multimedia worked much better on the proscenium arch stage with the audience in front of it.

In the last RSC production of The Winter’s Tale (dir David Farr), there was a moment, when the bookcases collapsed and as everything unravelled. In this production, a tower grinds upwards from the stage . Was this an image from the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games?  Was  I supposed to think that it represented the Industrial Age in the middle of the Pastoral world? I wasn’t clear about this and I felt that the imagery was a little muddled.

Hermiones of the recent past have appeared in the trial scene in dresses stained with the birth fluid.  In contrast, Tara Fitzgerald’s Hermione was dressed in black for her trial and there were clearly echoes of Anne Boleyn’s trail here.   The swordsman stands in the background. Though this was a very dramatic image, it seemed to be out of place and anachronistic in a production that couldn’t make up its mind about which idea/ideas it really wanted to focus on.

I enjoyed the Bohemia scenes more than I normally do. I think was because I could see how they related to the first half of he play in this production. Peace Quigley played a very dry Autolycus, and Nick Holder was a great stand up Clown’s son.

This was a violent production. Leontes punches Hermione in her swollen pregnant stomach and the audience gasped. When Leontes sat on his ivory tower looking down, there was a real sense of him being in purgatory and undergoing a punishment for his wife’s ‘death’.  The audience was always aware of his presence throughout the second half, and when Polixenes is violent to Florizel, history is repeating itself. The fight between Mopsa and Dorcus became an ironic commentary on the way that the court had behaved in the first part of the play.

Though I enjoyed this production and was entertained by the Bohemia scenes, I felt that overall it played with ideas on the surface and didn’t really get to grips with the emotion in the play. I still think of the image of Greg Hick’s crumpled Leontes being revealed slumped at the back of the stage in David Farr’s production was such a powerful image, and the tower just didn’t have the same effect. Again, I think the set design distracted from the play itself and added little particularly in Stratford on the thrust stage.  I was left wondering whether the set had been designed for the tour, and it had been hoped it would work in the RST as well.

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.

The Taming of the Shrew (Royal Shakespeare Theatre, w/c 23rd January 2012)

The set was a bed.

Indeed, the set really grabbed my attention when I walked into the RST. As I sat on the front row, I had to strain my neck to see over the stage, because the bed made the stage, which is high anyway, much higher.

It’s was a bold move to turn the thrust stage into a bed and in many ways this worked very well.  In the programme, the director, Lucy Bailey said that she wanted her overall concept to be about sleeping, sex and dreams.  This clearly signalled what we could expect from this production.

This production was framed by the Christopher Sly scenes, and Sly (Nick Holder) was on stage for most of the play.  Some of the fun was around him loosing  his pants, and this added a slapstick element to a very dark comedy.  In framing the play, the play itself becomes a wish fulfilment, and clearly Sly’s perception.

The production itself was an alcohol fuelled night on the town. Kate (Lisa Dillon) was sick over Petruchio (David Caves) and wet herself on stage.  It was behaviour that Petruchio seems to relish, and there was a reminder of those documentaries about drunken nights out in the cities of the UK.  If the chemistry was missing between Isabella and Angelo playing in the Swan at the same time, there was lots of chemistry between the Kate and Petruchio.  The audience sees Petruchio’s reaction to Kate when he first sees her and her clearly finds her attractive.  However, at the end of the play, I wasn’t sure whether their relationship would last.  I was reminded of Kate’s first entrance where she looked to be repentant, but as she threw off the brace, she fights back, showing her anger at her treatment.  Maybe once the test is over, she will do this again.

I loved this production.  It was thoughtful, funny and entertaining.

Reviews and Previews

The Stage / Reviews / The Taming of the Shrew
The Taming of the Shrew, RST – review | Theatre
The Taming of the Shrew, RSC, review – Telegraph
The Taming of the Shrew – review | Culture | The Guardian
The Taming of the Shrew: ‘This is not a woman being crushed’ | Stage | The Guardian
Other Blogs
Margate Sands

Best of 2010

Theatre: Shakespeare

1. Romeo and Juliet (RSC).

2. King Lear (RSC).

3. As You Like It (West Yorkshire Playhouse).

4. Measure for Measure (Almeida).

5. The Winter’s Tale (RSC/Roundhouse).

6. Henry IV part 2 (Globe).

7. Macbeth (Globe).

8. Antony and Cleopatra (RSC).

9. Antony and Cleopatra (Liverpool Playhouse).

10. Hamlet (The Crucible, Sheffield).

11. King Lear (Donmar).

12. Henry VIII (The Globe).

13. The Tempest (Old Vic).

14. As You Like It (Old Vic)

15. Macbeth (Belt Up/York Theatre Royal).

Theatre: Not Shakespeare

1. Jerusalem (Apollo).

2. After the Dance (National).

3. An Enemy of the People (Sheffield Crucible).

4. Women Beware Women (National).

5. London Assurance (National).

6. Enron (Theatre Royal, Newcastle)

7. The Habit of Art (National Theatre).

8. Corrie! (Lowry, Salford)

9. The Real Thing (Old Vic).

10. Canterbury Tales (West Yorkshire Playhouse/Northern Broadsides).

11. La Bete (Comedy Theatre).

12. Death of a Salesman (West Yorkshire Playhouse).

13. Three Sisters (Lyric, Hammersmith).

14. The Misanthrope (Comedy Theatre)

15. Beating Berlusconi. (York Theatre Royal).



1. Gauguin (Tate Modern).

2. Van Gogh (Royal Academy).

3. Renaissance drawings (The British Museum).

4. The Book of the Dead (British Museum).

5. Venice. Canaletto and his rivals. (The National Gallery).

6. Sargent and the Sea (Royal Academy).

7. Rude Britannia (Tate Britain).

8. Summer Show (Royal Academy).

9. Beatles to Bowie (National Portrait Gallery).

10. Chris Ofili (Tate Britain).



1. Andrea Levy The Long Song.

2. Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall.

3. AS Byatt – The Children’s Book.

4. Rose Tremain – Trespass.

5. Colm Toibin Brooklyn.

6. Ian McEwan  Solar.

7. Paul Magrs Diary of a Doctor Who Addict.

8. Tony Blair The Journey.

9. Kate Atkinson Started Early, Took My Dog.

10. Alexander McCall Smith The Double Comfort Safari Club.


1. Coronation Street –  especially for Jack’s Death and the Live episode (ITV).

3. Ashes to Ashes (BBC1).

4. Doctor Who – The End of Time part 2 (BBC1).

5. Doctor Who – especially for the eleventh hour (BBC1).

6. Downton Abbey (ITV1)

7. I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (ITV1).

8. Macbeth (BBC 4).

9. Luther (BBC1).

10. Silent Witness (BBC 1).

and my guilty pleasure of the year

Peter Kay at the Studio, Lowry (and again at the Manchester Evening News Arena).