The Merry Wives – May 2016

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare (slightly adapted)

Directed by Barry Rutter

Company: Northern Broadsides

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud

Date: Wednesday 11th May 2016

We like Northern Broadsides’ no-nonsense approach to Shakespeare’s texts, so we weren’t bothered to find that this version of Merry Wives was no longer set in Windsor, but had been relocated to a country club a few miles outside Harrogate (information courtesy of a post-show chat with the cast). The costumes located the play in the 1920s (with some variations) and the set created a stylish yet simple space for all of the action, with little need to trundle lots of furniture on and off. There was a replica of a 1920s treadmill and three lovely examples of period bicycles, including a tandem, to add to the fun, and the few alterations to the text included the “old woman of Ilkley”, a perfectly acceptable substitution. Apart from that, the dialogue was as expected, and the performance fairly zinged along, with some lovely business to keep us entertained. A shame there were so few of us to enjoy the fun – the auditorium was about a third full – but hopefully they will get better attendances later in the week.

Continue reading

Happy tenth anniversary

It came as something of a surprise to me recently to realise that I was nearly at the tenth anniversary of my first blog post, my notes on the RSC’s Complete Works Othello. Since that relatively brief first post, I have written notes on as many productions as I could, and given that Steve and I have been prolific, not to say greedy, in our theatre attendances, I’ve probably written the equivalent of a few novels in the ten years since I began.

As well as improving my writing skills somewhat, I’ve found that doing this blog has helped me not only to remember more productions in more detail, but to learn more from the variety of acting and directing styles we’ve encountered, and, occasionally, had to endure. The sheer richness of British theatre is one of the strongest impressions I’ve garnered over this period, and I find that that awareness underpins my enjoyment of everything we see nowadays, even those productions we don’t care for at all.

My writing has taken a back seat in the last couple of years, but I’ve been able to get back to it recently, and with several drafts waiting for my proof reader to get over a heavy cold, I plan to be hitting that Publish button several times in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here’s some statistics for the first ten years:

Number of plays seen: 1169 (that’s both me and Steve together – Steve has seen some additional ones on his own. There have also been some rehearsed readings and one NT live cinema screening.)

Number of blog posts: 791 (so only another 378 catch-ups to do!)

Average rating is just a whisker over 7/10 (7.0143, to be more specific – we do like our theatre)

And, in case you couldn’t guess, our most-watched playwright is…Shakespeare! (287 performances, although some of them bore only a tenuous connection to the great man’s work)

So that’s it for now: a mini celebration amongst the hard grind of poring over a text and trying to match my memories to the almost unintelligible scrawl in my notebooks. Hope you’ve enjoyed some of the output – I’ve certainly enjoyed most of this ten years’ worth of play-attending, and I’m looking forward to another, equally enjoyable ten (and more) to come.

© 2016 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

All’s Well That Ends Well – April 2016

Experience: 10/10

By William Shakespeare, adapted by Dominic Power

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Company: STF and TFT

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Wednesday 13th April 2016

Tonight we sat directly opposite our previous seats, which not only gave us a great view of tonight’s performance, but also a completely different perspective. The cast had made good use of the extra practice, and all the performances had developed nicely; although there were still a few fluffs, nothing detracted from the marvellous energy and pace with which they drove this story along, and there were some lovely extra details here and there. Sadly, the house was not full, so clearly word has not yet got out about how wonderful this production is. I’m tempted to ask my maestro of the scheduling (aka Steve) to see if we can squeeze in another viewing during the tour, but one look at my diary – we have a LOT coming up – suggests that won’t be possible. Catch it if you can.

Continue reading

King Lear – April 2016

Experience: 9/10

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Max Webster

Produced by The Royal and Derngate in association with ATG

Venue: The Royal, Northampton

Date: Tuesday 12th April 2016

We’ll go a long way for a good Shakespeare production, and we were more than eager to see Michael Pennington give us his King Lear. We weren’t disappointed: although some aspects of the production could have been stronger, there was no mistaking the majestic central performance, and with his skill in delivering the lines, there was also no need for any gimmicks to support the performances. Shakespeare neat, on the rocks: just how we like it.

Continue reading

All’s Well That Ends Well – March 2016

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare (with a little help from Dominic Power)

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Company: Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory (STF) and Tobacco Factory Theatres (TFT)

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Thursday 31st March 2016

This production was a revelation: we were completely enthralled by this adapted version of one of Will’s ‘troublesome’ plays. As it was the first night, the cast were a little tense to begin with, but after some strong laughs in the first half, they relaxed into it, and the rest of the performance was noticeably more confident. There’s still some improvement in it even so; a few lines were fluffed tonight, but that’s to be expected, and one or two of the scene changes are likely to speed up with practice, but nothing detracted from this superb interpretation of this less-performed play.

Continue reading

Doctor Faustus – March 2016

Experience: 3/10

By Christopher Marlowe

Directed by Maria Aberg

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Wednesday 30th March 2106

Maria Aberg is fast heading for “Danger, Will Robinson” status, given to those directors whose work we avoid so as not to waste any of our precious remaining minutes on this planet. This production moved her a good few notches closer – only memories of her As You Like It stand between her and oblivion. (I doubt this will trouble her in the least.) Tonight’s offering was dire in every way except the performances by the lead actors – we have huge respect for the work they do, and given the unfortunate nature of the production they did as well as could be expected. Even so, I avoided adding to the applause at the end, and Steve’s contribution was polite but unenthusiastic.

Continue reading

Hamlet – February 2016

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Produced by STF and Tobacco Factory Theatres

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Wednesday 24th February 2016

Interesting to see another production of Hamlet here after Jonathan Miller’s excellent version with Jamie Ballard back in 2008. This didn’t reach the same heights, but as it was an early performance we expect the overall standard to improve. And there was a lot to like here, with a brisk edition of the text and some lively sword-fighting. We hope to see it again once they’ve settled into it more, but in any case this was a good start. [Didn’t manage to make the second viewing.]

Continue reading