'…all hail!' to me? So Judas did to Christ..' (Revisiting Richard II, RST and Barbican, October 27th to Wednesday 8th January 2014).

The post contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen this production yet and don’t want to know about some of the production’s surprises, then it is best not to read this post.

Having seen this production again in Stratford after the Previews had taken place and then at the Barbican, I have had more time to think about it and consider some of the detail in the production. The one thing that really stands out for me is how Aumerle, wonderfully captured by Oliver Rix, becomes a constant presence and draws together many of the different themes that this production explores. I wanted to use this blog post to reflect on how the production had developed during the run.

Aumerle is a watcher, a waiverer and an outsider. He is often very emotional and conflicted. He is unsure where his loyalties should lie. He is his Father’s son (Duke of York brilliantly played by Oiliver Ford Davies). In Previews, I found myself drawn to Rix’s portrayal of Aumerle. He is stunningly good looking and contrasts both with the broad brutish group that supports Bolingbroke and also with the more slender Flatterers (Bushy, Bagot and Greene) that follow Richard. Bolingbroke’s followers wear browns and rusts, whereas Richard’s followers wear greys and beiges. In contrast to these two factions, Aumerle wears a rich green cloak that is interwoven with metallic thread. His dress sets him apart from other characters. The director, Greg Doran, has talked about the way that David Tennant brings something of the contemporary to the production, and of course David Tenannt’s Richard is also a character who physically stands out from the other characters. However, Oliver Rix’s Aumerle also has a very contemporary feel. His dark styled hair feels modern, and many of his gestures seem more in keeping with current youth culture than the code of conduct in medieval England.

What is very special about Rix’s performance is the way that he has built up the non-verbal action. His response to Richard’s Flatterers in the first act is one of disgust as they applaud Richard’s witticisms. There’s clearly a rivalry between Aumerle and Bushy (Sam Marks). This is particularly evident in their entrance to John of Gaunt’s house. As Bushy and Aumerle enter, Bushy turns to Aumerle and gives him a look of utter contempt. It’s easy to miss this, because Richard’s and Isabella’s (Emma Hamilton) entrance is rather dramatic and does tend to draw attention to them.

It’s not just Richard’s Flatterers that show disdain for Aumerle. Bolingbroke’s (Nigel Lindsay) burly followers don’t want Aumerle hanging around with them either. After the death of John of Gaunt it is clear that they want Aumerle to leave and he quickly gets the message.

In early scenes, Aumerle comforts his father. He helps him up when York is clearly upset at the death of his brother Gaunt, but this relationship quickly changes. After the scene on the gantry at Flint Castle, York moves to embrace Aumerle, who responds by grabbing his father’s cloak and gives the impression that he wants to throttle him. Both father and son swap sides. York shifts allegiances very quickly, but always reluctantly, from Richard to Bolingbroke, at the same time Aumerle’s allegiances move to Richard.

As the Stratford run was drawing to a close, I had a conversation with Dr Jami Rogers who suggested that there were lots of hints in the production that suggested that Aumerle would become the murderer at the end. She mentioned the Judas kiss on the battlements of Flint Castle as an example. This made me think a little more about Aumerle’s role in this production. I started to watch with fresh eyes. Once the seeds have been planted, then this production becomes a Who-will-do-it, as much as it is a Whodunit. The ‘who killed Gloucester plot’ that runs through the production, is a clever piece of business, and what it does is constantly remind us that Edward’s heirs are not safe. The knowledge that Gloucester has been murdered also plants the possibility of regicide in the audience’s minds.

The key change in the production is that the character of Exton has been cut and Aumerle becomes Richard’s murderer. David Tennant said in the question and answer session after the performance on 8th January that this change made more sense of Aumerle’s character, and I agree totally with this observation.

In this production, the ending becomes a very satisfying ending and this is why.

Aumerle is troubled when Richard banishes Bolingbroke and he embraces Bolingbroke before his banishment. Indeed, he supports Bolingbroke on his way to his banishment.  The sweet that Richard puts into Aumerle’s mouth silences him, as does the kiss on the gantry at Flint Castle. There are other places where Aumerle could speak and is silenced. At the very start of the performance, I am very unsure if Aumerle will also step forward and challenge Mowbray (Antony Byrne), but Richard’s entrance stops him doing so, and of course protocol does as well. During the ‘death of kings’ scene, I have seen Aumerle signal to Carlisle not to speak, and stays silent himself at certain points. Whilst Aumerle’s mother pleads for his life, he shows his annoyance at his father’s interventions through his gestures and facial expressions. Indeed, it is in his non-speaking moments that Aumerle is actually a very strong presence on stage. His expressions and gestures clearly convey his conflicted position and relationships with other characters.

In some performances, at Flint Castle, Bolingbroke looks directly at Aumerle as if questioning him and his loyalty. Just prior to this, Aumerle has just demonstrated his allegiance to Richard on the gantry, and the kiss and embrace between them can be read as a personal human moment. The kiss can also be interpreted as the Judas kiss that Jami talked about. Indeed, in the deposition scene Richard directs the word Judas from the following lines directly at Aumerle.

In thy heart-blood, though being all too base. To stain the temper of my knightly …. Did they not sometime cry, ‘All hail!’ to me? So Judas did to Christ: but he, in twelve, Found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thou- sand, none. God save the king ! (4.1.165).

The use of mirrors is very important in Richard II. Greg Doran’s production cleverly sets up pieces of stage business that are mirrored later on in the performance. An obvious example of this is when Bagot (Jake Mann) brings Richard (David Tennant) the mirror it is to emphasise Richard’s vanity and his role as a Flatterer. Later in the deposition scene, it is Bagot who brings the mirror to Richard this time emphasising Richard’s fragility and demonstrating the transience of the support that Bagot had given Richard when he was King. Richard clearly recognises Bagot, and through the repetition of the earlier mirror moment, the betrayal is amplified. However, in both the mirror scenes, Aumerle is also an observer.

The image of the coffin on stage at the start of the performance is a wonderful precursor to the coffin dragged on stage by Aumerle at the end of the production. The production begins with a pre-show and the coffin of the Duke of Gloucester on stage. The Duchess of Gloucester (Jane Lapotaire) kneels weeping at the side of the coffin. One of the final images of the production is Richard’s coffin placed on the stage in the same spot where Gloucester’s coffin was and a kneeling Duke of York beside the coffin is reminiscent of the earlier pose taken at the start by the Duchess of Gloucester. This final image is overlaid by a strange image of the ghost of Richard, Christ-like in a white gown standing on the gantry. This image is a reminder of the white that Richard wore for his entrance at the start of the play. In the early scenes, Bolingbroke is banished and the production concludes with the banishment of Richard’s other cousin, Aumerle.

Vicster51corner  has written a very interesting blog about the understudy performance in Stratford Upon Avon, where Oliver Rix performed the part of Richard II. It makes sense for Rix to understudy Richard. Bolingbroke offers an opposition to Richard, and Rix’s Aumerle offers a distorted reflected image of both. As I said in my Preview post, this is the story of three cousins, and the production as a whole works because of the strong sensible cast where Rix’s performance is central.

Further Details

http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/richard-ii/

References

Storify page containing links to reviews interviews etc.

https://drjamirogers.wordpress.com/author/shakespearegoddess/

http://vickster51corner.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/yet-looks-he-like-a-king-the-public-understudy-performance-of-the-rscs-richard-ii-29th-october-2013/

http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/bardathon/2013/10/30/23631/

Richard II (RST, Preview performances 10th, 11th, 12th October 2013)

The Summer RST Company have left, and the barriers have appeared around the stage door. Tweeters twitter about how wonderful David Tennant’s performance is. It’s an ‘enthralling performance’, ‘just extraordinary’ and ‘mesmerising’ they say.

Richard II enters the stage and is at the centre of his court with his flatters whispering in his ear.

The casting of David Tennant was an important move in setting out Doran’s future strategy for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tenannt’s presence on stage, and as part of the Company, signals a change in direction form Michael Boyd’s ideas around ensemble. On stage, he is supported by a very strong company, and it is interesting that David Tennant’s presence on the RST stage adds something to the reading of his character.

I saw the first three previews of the current production of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Richard II. I realise that previews are a work in progress, and that the production may have changed during the other three performances leading up to Press Night. Previews give the creative team time to try things out before the Press Night and drop anything that just isn’t working. It was clear that there was some work to be done, but I felt that there are real positives about this production, and I was really confident that what I was seeing in previews would be the basis for an excellent production.

The first thing that struck me when I walked  into the auditorium for the first preview was both the stunning set and the that the stage had been lowered. The set  looks like a hologram and is set in a cathedral that seems to go back into the depths of the theatre. It is a very innovative use of the old proscenium arch space to create the image of gothic columns. I was delighted to see that the stage used for the summer season has been replaced by a much lower stage which is much better than the chin high stage which caused some sight lines to be problematic. Indeed, the height is much more like the height in the Courtyard Theatre, and I hope the RSC keep the stage at this height. I felt the set had been designed both for the RST and the Barbican, and I think it will work so well on a proscenium arch stage as well as on the RST stage. What I really liked about the set was  the way the light reflected on  the set and changed colours, so the garden became golden. There was a little of  Greg Doran’s Hamlet set here in that the audience were mirrored in it at points which was very effective. There was an innovative use of a platform across the stage that appeared and descended at different points. As the musicians were at the sides of the dress and upper circle, both the horizontal and vertical space of the theatre was being utilised.

The pre-show is a little clumsy. On all three nights the audience was unsure how to respond. Had the play started? Could they continue to settle into their seats. Over the three nights the pre-show had been cut from about 10 minutes to five minutes.

I felt David Tennant did a great job at getting at Richard in previews and it is a performance I could see really developing during the run. When I first saw it, I wasn’t sure if the awkwardness at the start was Tennant’s nerves or because he was trying to reveal an unease in the character. In the first preview, Tennant’s clothes were dishevelled, his cross askew, and his hair (with extensions) a mess.  Tennant is very good at using his physique to play an awkwardness and there was something of that here. At times, he overstressed the RP accent which gave the sense of a person uncomfortable with the role he was inhabiting. At one point on the metal platform, with Aumerle (Oliver Rix), Tennant looked as if his shirt had got caught, but that was because he had a wire on for health and safety reasons, and this felt odd as Tennant was playing a vain king that looked at himself in he mirror often.

Tennant played the transformation from king to broken man very well and I really loved the metamorphosis into a Christ-like figure at the end of the play. What wasn’t working when I saw the production was that there felt like there was anxiety in Tennant’s performance as if it didn’t quiet connect with the audience. It was as if he lacked the confidence he demonstrated so well when he played Hamlet. Maybe this was because of  the physical closeness of the performance to the audience and that made him very conscious of the audience around him. The full house standing ovations are yet to come. I am sure they will. On the first preview some people stood, and the audience clearly enjoyed the production.

The audience gasped when the  identity of the murderer is revealed and this is a  lovely touch.

I felt that the end was marred slightly by the sack in the coffin, which I am sure they borrowed from the Titus set and will have to give back. I hope this changes and that there is a real sense of the earthly body and so this can be contrasted to the spiritual in a way that I think the production is trying to get at. Another thing that didn’t work for me was the ghost of Richard clanking across the metal bridge and supposedly having to open a  gate, when ghosts walk through gates. The effect might have been better if Richard had been revealed rather than having to walk onto the platform in full view.

In previews there were some stunning performances. I was particularly impressed with Oliver Ford Davies as the Duke of York and Oliver Rix as Aumerle. Rix really fleshed out the character and gave the production a sense that this was the story of three cousins not just Richard and Bollingbroke. I felt the scenes between Aumerle and Richard were really strong.  The stand out performance of the previews for me was Nigel Lindsay. He played a bully, Bolingbroke, who only seemed repentant in the last moments of the play.

It was great to have seen the wonderful John Heffernan as Edward II recently. Both Richard II and Edward II explore leadership and what happens when personal emotion takes over, and I felt that the RSC production achieved this well.

For me, preview viewing is very much part of the excitement of live theatre. In a first preview you just have no idea what approach will be taken. It was exciting to share the experience with other passionate theatre goers. The excitement is also about being able to go back again on future dates to see how the production has developed. I intend to do that soon.

Reviews and Previews

Storify page with reviews, interviews and blogs

All's Well That End's Well (Royal Shakespeare Theatre, 25th July 2013)

All’s Well That Ends Well isn’t performed very often, so it is always really a refreshing change from the normal schedule when a production comes along. After seeing Marianne Elliot’s stunning fairy tale version at the national a few years ago, it is hard to envisage how the play might be staged without the fairy tale setting. Nancy Meckler’s current production for the RSC does bring in some fairytale elements, but the key backdrop to this production is a brutal war which Alex Waldmann’s Bertram is determined to join.

When the audience enter the auditorium, they are faced with a rather sparse stage. There’s what looks like a railway arch in the background with the words, ‘All’s Well That End’s Well’ projected on it. Maybe, it is meant to be a club, because the production starts with a scene from a night out with Bertram clearly having fun, getting very drunk, and at one point taking his shirt off. We are shown the end of the night, as he has received the news that his father had died, and he has to be helped home by Helena, because he is roaring drunk and unable to stand on his own. It was clear from this opening that Helena is in love with Bertram and that he doesn’t really notice her. Bertram is interested in being in the company of men, having a lads night out, and training for the war. When he is forced to marry Helena, which her reward for curing the King of France, this is an excuse for him to run away and to join the wars in Italy.

For a moment, the opening gives a promise of Grease.  Helena, like Sandy, falls in with a glamorous playboy, who at first rejects her but she gets her man in the end. However, this production takes a different trajectory from Grease, and observes the sadness and patience of Helena and the slow realisation of what responsiblity is for a young man growing up. Helena does not have to glam up to get her man, but uses her wits and intellect to carefully respond to his challenge .

In the current RSC season, Maria Aberg’s production of As You Like It explores the performance of gender. In contrast, this production presents gender as innate rather than socially constructed. It explores a dichotomy between masculinity and femininity as aggression versus nurturing. In the Director’s Talk last night (24th July) a member of the audience made the comment that the different textures seen in the back of the set could represent male and female qualities. Nancy Meckler adds a scene where the soldiers in Italy become extremely sexually aggressive and the action becomes very shocking. It is only the intervention of Diana’s mother (Karen Archer) that protects the women from sexual violence. The scene brings into realisation that Bertram’s treatment of Helena (and Diana) is also extremely shocking as psychological and physical abuse.

Alex Waldmann gives both a solid and stunning performance and is able to depict Bertram with a clear narrative arc that explores how the character starts off as a young adolescent and finishes the play as a wounded and broken man. Alex Waldmann said that an influence was Prince Harry in an interview with the Oxford Times. Nancy Meckler reiterated Prince Harry’s influence on the character influence in the Director’s Talk. There is a little bit of his King John in Waldmann’s approach to Bertram with that kind of arrogant dismissiveness, and an unwillingness to take responsibility. Though Bertram has matured by the end of the play, Waldmann’s realisation of the character presents him as having suffered both physical and mental pain on the way to this maturity. The scar that appears on the side of Bertram’s face is a stark reminder that war is about physical combat. When Bertram makes love to Helena in the bed trick scene, he is damaged, grieving and feeling the pain of loss. This moment actually becomes a poignant moment, and a pivotal moment in the production. At the end of the production, I really felt that Bertram was sorry and that the experience of fighting in a war had shaken him. He continues to lie because he is confused and battered. In the final scene, his whole physic seems shrunken and broken. For this production, Waldmann has shaven off his beard making seem extremely young and vulnerable.

Jonathan Slinger is very entertaining as Parolles, and as he did with his portrayal of Malvolio in last season’s Twelfth Night, he can also make an audience feel the discomfort when the comedy moves into darker moments and his character is humiliated. In the scene where Paroles, blindfolded and terrified for his life, betrays his company, and the moment becomes both humorous and sad. This is also a moment, where Bertram is faced with the betrayal of his friend, and it startlingly mirrors his own betrayal of Helena.

Joanna Horton plays Helena in such a way that the unrequited love seems ingrained in her whole being. The scene when she admits she loves Bertram to the Countess (Charlotte Cornwall) is played with particular tenderness by both actresses. Horton’s is a polished quiet performance which works so well in contrast to Waldmann’s performance as Bertram. There are some lovely moments where both of them use facial expressions to reveal their emotion. For example, when Helena chooses a husband, she is delighted, and he is ambivalent.

Greg Hicks, playing the King of France, looked as if he had retrieved his King Lear wig from a black bin bag liner. There are also echoes of his Lear as he the King of France is pushed around in the wheelchair about to be reconciled with Cordelia in the 2010-11 production of King Lear (dir David Farr). However, Helena’s miracle cure gives Hicks the opportunity to demonstrate his impressive capoeira skills, and the recovery seems more miraculous and magical. At this point, I was feeling sorry for Greg Hicks’ understudy who might have to give this part of the performance a different aspect.

There are echoes of the current production of As You Like It, as Helena is revealed in a white dress at the back of the stage. The ending has changed in the previews. At the first preview, there was some hesitation and echoes of the ending of recent productions of Measure for Measure. Would Helena take Bertram’s hand? The production settles on a happy ending, but an ending that left me feeling that this young couple would have to work hard to make their marriage work.

Apart from a perspex box which comes from the back of the stage every now and again, the set tends to be uncluttered. The multimedia is very effective, but it is best seen from the front of the stage rather than the side of the stage. The set is beautifully lit by Tim Lutin. The narrative is well told and I thought very clear.

The language of ensemble seems to have left the RSC vocabulary since Michael Boyd’s departure. However, it is great to see the current main house company growing with each piece of work that opens and becoming much stronger as they continue to work together, which was part of Boyd’s vision for the RSC. It as Greg Doran said in an interview that he gave on taking on the role of Artistic Director that you can’t cast an ensemble, and that a company becomes an ensemble as they grow confident working together. Some of this company worked together in last year’s Swan season and have already opened in Hamlet and As You Like It. In current RSC productions, the Company are making the minor roles as interesting as the lead roles. For example, it is really great to see Mark Holgate being given a little more to do as First Lord Dumaine and Natalie Klamar as Diana being able to demonstrate her range of talents. David Fielder gives an excellent solid and sure performance as Lafew who is able to forgive and exhibit humanity.

I am hoping to see some of the Company back in Stratford next year. I especially would like to see Alex Waldmnann return because, after following him through his performances as King John and Catesby through to Horatio, Orlando and Bertram, I am interested in seeing how he approaches other roles. He is clearly an actor that is becoming extremely polished in all his performances. In each production that I have seen him in, he brings both a sense of thoughtful creativity and vigour to his performance, making sure that each gesture and speech is nuanced which feels so fresh and natural. Waldmann is able to play very young, but with a maturity that he has now gained from playing several major roles with the RSC.

Further Information

http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/alls-well-that-ends-well/

My Storify Page (I will add reviews as they come out).

Greg Doran interview at the Shakespeare Institute. (Jan 24th 2013)

Previews and Reviews

http://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/2013/07/26/entertainment-All’s-Well-That-Ends-Well—RSC-Stratford-on-Avon-79206.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/10207205/Alls-Well-That-Ends-WellRomeo-and-Juliet-review.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2013/jul/26/alls-well-that-ends-well-review

http://exeuntmagazine.com/reviews/alls-well-that-ends-well-2/

http://www.whatsonstage.com/stratford-upon-avon-theatre/reviews/07-2013/alls-well-that-ends-well-rsc_31422.html?cid=homepage_news

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/reviews/theatre-review-alls-well-that-ends-well-royal-shakespeare-theatre-stratforduponavon-8733210.html

http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/38786/alls-well-that-ends-well

http://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/theatre/417548/Theatre-Review-All-s-Well-That-Ends-Well

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/f7a963fc-f830-11e2-92f0-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2aXHyk8e8

http://exeuntmagazine.com/features/alex-waldmann/

http://www.whatsonstage.com/west-end-theatre/news/04-2013/20-questions-with-rising-rsc-star-alex-waldmann_519.html

http://www.rsc.org.uk/explore/blogs/pathways-to-shakespeare/alex-waldmann/

http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/features/10483679.Profile__Alex_Waldmann___from_Cherwell_to_the_RSC/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpP6xqYd4FU

http://www.stratfordobserver.co.uk/2013/07/19/entertainment-Rarely-staged-All-Well-That-Ends-Well-at-RSc-in–76440.html

http://www.whatsonstage.com/newcastle-upon-tyne-theatre/news/07-2013/20-questions-with-rscs-charlotte-cornwell_31412.html?cid=homepage_news

Happy Birthday Shakespeare – On going to see Shakespeare's plays and why I do.

I am writing this blog as part of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Happy Shakespeare blog project www.happybirthdayshakespeare.com I decided to join the project, because as a blogger I am often writing about going to see Shakespeare’s plays performed, and felt it appropriate to write about why I enjoy seeing Shakespeare in performance so much.

Charles Lamb, the Romantic critic, wrote about how he felt that Shakespeare’s plays shouldn’t be staged. I once met an academic who talked with great delight about how they would walk out of a performance of a Shakespeare play at the interval and how they preferred to go to the pub instead. I had a friend who had seen Jeremy Irons as Leontes in The Winter’s Tale and she said that she could never go to see another production of The Winter’s Tale because she didn’t want to spoil that memory. These stories make me a little sad, because I think that it is a shame that people can often place their own barriers around how they experience Shakespeare in performance. I know what Lamb really meant was that it didn’t want to see a bad production of a Shakespeare play (see Professor Stanley Wells’ article referenced below), and I was rather amazed at the statement about leaving the theatre in the interval because this was someone who was famous for writing academic books about Shakespeare. My friend was a regular at the RSC season in Newcastle, so she didn’t stop going to see Shakespeare on stage, just not The Winter’s Tale again. The critic, the academic, and regular theatre goer may sometimes have different reasons for watching Shakespeare in performance, but we’re all part of the audience, and for me being in an audience watching is about experiencing Shakespeare.

Of course, I want to see a brilliant production, one that will wow me. I felt like that when I saw the Baxter Theatre/Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production of The Tempest in 2009. I was amazed by that brilliant opening to the latest RSC production of Romeo and Juliet and I still have the image of Mercutio’s (Jonjo O’Neil) entrance swinging in on the gate and that wonderful performance overall. I saw that production of Romeo and Juliet again several times and enjoyed it each time that I saw it. The anticipation at the start was built up when I could glance Sam Troughton and Noma Dumezweni take their places at the auditorium doors and I knew the play was about to start. However, I just love the experience of being in a theatre, whether it has a thrust stage or proscenium arch. I am just too curious to leave in the interval, even if I felt a production was not going well. I was puzzled by Tim Carroll’s recent RSC Merchant of Venice, but the second half was much more exciting than the first, and I was so glad that I stayed.  I saw this production again and felt I understood what was happening more on the second visit.

I’ve just seen the National Theatre production of Hamlet. It couldn’t have been more different from the Greg Doran’s RSC 2008-09 production of Hamlet, but I enjoyed both equally. I will see another three productions this year – The Gobe’s touring Hamlet, Northern Broadsides’ production at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Michael Sheen at the Young Vic- and what interests me most is how will each company will approach the text(s).  I want to see their interpretations, and certainly not my idea of how the play should be performed. I just love seeing something, I wouldn’t have thought about myself.

Watching the development of the recent RSC Antony and Cleopatra was a very interesting experience.  I was unsure about the production at first, and many of the reviews were mixed, but I felt that some of the risks did pay off, and I was so pleased I managed to get returns to see the production go into the Swan theatre, stripped down and with Katy Stephens as Cleopatra.

I think, I’m haunted by the ghosts of the RSC as the RSC is itself is with its ghost wall projecting images of past productions as the audience enter the new RST at Stratford.  I remember Roger Rees as  in Hamlet, Antony Sher as Richard III, Simon Russell Beale as a brilliant Ariel in The Tempest and of course Jeremy Irons as Leontes. As I say goodbye to one RSC ensemble, I become excited by the next one coming into Stratford, and again I am curious about what they will do and how they will approach each play. I look out for productions in the regions, at local heritage sites, at the Globe and even in the West End. I am looking forward to seeing Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate. That was my ideal casting, I told my friends and then when it became a reality I was delighted to get tickets.

I sometimes make attempts to separate my different identities as a critic (blogger), an academic or regular theatre goer, but the boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred. Fro me, watching Shakespeare is usually intellectually stimulating, sometimes frustrating, but thankfully often amazing.


Further Information

Well, Stanley ‘Shakespeare in Hazlett’s Theatre Criticism’. Shakespeare Survey, 35 (1982), 43-55.

NewImage

Standing Ovations & And Furthermore – Judi Dench

Yesterday, there was a standing ovation at the National Theatre for Hamlet. There was something very satisfying about being part of an audience that can show its appreciation for the production they’ve just seen. The standing ovation started as a coy gesture by a few people, but grew to nearly the whole audience. I felt really pleased with myself for being one of the first onto my feet. I was getting some practice being at the las night/matinée of the long ensemble in Stratford and was getting a little less conscious of myself. I had also finished Judi Dench’s autobiography And Furthermore where she talks about the British being more reserved than the Americans and that the Americans are much more likely to show their appreciation by clapping on an entrance and standing at the end of the play. This spurred me on to be less reserved than normal and to stand at the end of a production I’d admired on a previous visit and had, with regret, stayed seated at the end.

Yes, I’ve just finished And Furthermore, Judi Dench’s autobiography. When I say that I have finished it, I have finished the audiobook version read by Samantha Bond. As I was listening, I wasn’t thinking that this was Samantha Bond reading, but Judi Dench telling her story. Bond was able to pick up Dench’s voice brilliantly and there were some ironic moments when Dench is talking about working with Bond.  For example, when Dench talks about directing Bond as Beatrice in Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Company, Much Ado About Nothing.

The one thing that really comes across is Dench’s humour. There always seems to be lots of laughter where Dench works. Dench talks about the surprise walk on parts she has undertaken in other people’s productions as well as the continuing saga of the black glove! As well as the successes and happy times, Dench shares sad moments with us, such as her husband Michael William’s sad death from cancer. What I liked about this book was that Dench was always very reflective, always willing to learn from things that didn’t go so well, as well as the performances which were clearly well received. In the book, Dench talks about the intrusive journalism that goes beyond the professional and pries into the private, and I thought the book struck a good balance between letting the reader/listener know something about Dench’s approach to her work, as well as keeping some things private.

And Furthermore is a survey of Dench’s professional life, her theatre work, her television work and later in her career, her film work. It is therefore, a history of the RSC, the National Theatre and other creative projects such as Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Company. It’s extremely enjoyable, and very informative. I really enjoyed it.

Further Information

And Furthermore audiobook is available from Audible http://www.audible.co.uk