THEATRE REVIEW: Macbeth, New Wimbledon Studio

running until 9 July

Arrows and Traps are back with another bold re-imagining of a Shakespearean text, after their previous incarnations of The Taming of the Shrew and Titus Andronicus. This time it’s The Scottish Play that is given the Traps treatment, and on paper it seems like the ideal piece for their brand of reinvention. There are many strong performances to be found, and some interesting creative decisions, but there are a few elements of staging that undermine the power and maturity of the production.

Cornelia Baumann and David Paisley as the Macbeths - Macbeth - Arrows and Traps
Cornelia Baumann and David Paisley as the Macbeths (c) Davor Tovarlaza at the Ocular Creative

As the titular warrior, David Paisley is consistent and impressive; his assertive and war-like demeanour crumbles into a man on the edge,
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THEATRE REVIEW: King John, Rose Theatre

running until 5 June

The cast of King John (c) Mark Douet
The cast of King John (c) Mark Douet

This production of King John marks number 36 out of 37 Shakespearean plays for ex-RSC director Trevor Nunn: surprisingly it will be the much-loved A Midsummer Night’s Dream that finally completes the list later this year. It’s a cynical but not unlikely supposition that it is this ticking off of the canon that has inspired this revival, more than the text itself. King John is a difficult play to love: the title character is neither impressively heroic nor thrillingly villainous; the English and French royals can’t seem to make their mind up whether to fight each other or marry each other; and there’s a confusing subplot about the Pope. Nunn acknowledges its difficulties in the director’s notes: “There is no point in denying that there are problems with the text that has come down to us. The play contains some of the most original and genre challenging writing, but in the last third in particular, there seem to be missing passages and unexplained developments”. Nunn has dealt with these by adding in extra material to plug the gaps, taken from a much earlier work that may (or may not) have been penned by Shakespeare too, but contains much of the necessary narrative source.

Despite rewrites, and Nunn’s comparisons to modern politics, this feels like a safe revival, and particularly in the first half it feels emotionally distant. Read More »

THEATRE REVIEW: Richard II, Barbican Theatre

ran until 22 January

Having missed the previous run of this show at the Barbican, I was nigh on ecstatic to get the chance to see David Tennant perform as the titular king, thanks to a fortuitous spare ticket from a fellow theatre fanatic. The first in the so-called ‘Henriad‘ tetralogy, Richard II is surely Shakespeare’s most beautifully crafted history play with some of the finest woven language. It certainly blows apart the slight resentment I held towards the supposedly dry, dusty histories during my studies of Shakespeare, desperate as I was to move onto the more glamorous tragedies or playful comedies.

This production is being revived as part of the RSC’s King and Country cycle but has probably attracted the most attention, once again, thanks to the star presence of Tennant.Read More »

THEATRE REVIEW: Measure for Measure, Young Vic

running until 14 November

The third London version of Measure for Measure this year, Joe Hill-Gibbins tackles Shakespeare’s classic ‘problem play’ with radical audacity at the Young Vic this season, creating a production that crackles with comedy and darkness. The line between the two becomes increasingly fuzzy and elusive, leading to a denouement that lands us on unstable ground.

Measure for Measure Young Vic - Keith_Pattison
(c) Keith Pattison

The visuals immediately go for full-throttle shock factor, as Hill-Gibbins and designer Miriam Buether hit us in the face with their ‘forget-everything-you-think-you-know-about-Shakespeare’ staging. As lust and licentiousness overcome the city of Vienna, heaps of blow-up sex dolls fill the stage; Read More »

THEATRE REVIEW: Titus Andronicus, New Wimbledon Studio

Will Mytum and Alex Stevens as Chiron and Demetrius - Titus Andronicus - Arrows and Traps
Will Mytum and Alex Stevens as Chiron and Demetrius

running until 14 November

Earlier this year, I was impressed by Arrows and Traps’ adaptation of problematic comedy The Taming of the Shrew, which papered over the difficulties in Shakespeare’s gendered comedy with fast-paced fun and comedy. Titus Andronicus is another of the Bard’s trickier plays to stage, and calls for high drama rather than comedy. Having seen this new production at the New Wimbledon Studio last night, it’s easy to see which genre Arrows and Traps do best, as despite some strong performances their Titus lacks the energy and pace of their previous work.

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