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.

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To Kill A Mockingbird – July 2015

Experience: 10/10

Adapted by Christopher Sergel from the novel by Harper Lee

Directed by Timothy Sheader

Company: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Venue: Barbican

Date: Thursday 2nd July 2015

This was a fabulous performance, and I’m thrilled we got to see it. The style of presentation meant that it took about fifteen minutes for me to be fully engaged, but after that we had a blissful ride through one of the most intelligent and moving stories ever written. I sniffled, I cried, there was quite a lot of humour and even a gasp, not to mention tumultuous applause at the end. A great afternoon.

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St Agnes Fountain – December 2013

Experience: 10/10

Venue: Hailsham Pavilion

Date: Saturday 14th December 2013

This was a fantastic introduction to both St Agnes Fountain and the Hailsham Pavilion, which is a delightful small theatre space with a good atmosphere and strong audience support. We have added it to our ‘check regularly’ list. The little stage was rather crowded, with Julie Matthews on keyboard (and occasional guitar) on the left, Chris While beside her on guitar and percussion, David Hughes next on guitar and Chris Leslie on the right with an assortment of instruments around him. Behind them were three banners each showing a ship, in the style of a stained glass window, and there was an abundance of tinsel everywhere that tinsel could safely be put as well as a string of ever-changing lights draped along the row of microphones. It would be hard to miss that this was a Christmas show.

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Othello – June 2013

Experience: 10/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Nicholas Hytner

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Date: Sunday 16th June 2013

This was a fantastic performance. The modern setting enriched the detailed characterisations while the set gave us the necessary locations without being too elaborate. We had one understudy on stage today: Robert Demeger was indisposed so Jonathan Dryden Taylor took his place as the Duke.

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Feast Of Fiddles – April 2013

Experience: 10/10

Venue: Clair Hall, Haywards Heath

Date: Thursday 4th April 2013

This was fantastic! The fiddle line-up consisted of Peter Knight, Garry Blakely, Ian Cutler, Brian McNeill, Phil Beer, Tom Leary and Chris Leslie. The rest of the band were the usual suspects – a great combo.

They started off with some tunes, then more tunes – sorry, they didn’t give us the names and I’m not that familiar with their repertoire – and then Hugh actually said hello to us. He mentioned the new CD Rise Above It (we’d already spotted it, and bought our copy) and after Lochanside to Maribor*, Garry did his solo spot: Sons Of The Soil*, with Peter, High and Brian doing the backing vocals. Garry then introduced Tom Leary, who arrived with Chris Leslie, and the trio then did three tunes, with Chris playing a woodwind instrument which had a lovely haunting sound. There was a minor problem with feedback, soon sorted, and they began again. One of the tunes was called Tartan Slippers.

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Private Lives – October 2012

10/10

By Noel Coward

Directed by Jonathan Kent

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Wednesday 10th October 2012

Another excellent performance from all the cast, with even more detail and even more laughs. No changes to report on the set or staging, although I forgot to mention last time about the Rites Of Spring dance which Amanda did specifically to annoy Elyot during Act 2. She did the modernistic choreography very well, and we learned in the post-show that Amanda’s flat was in the same street where Diaghilev’s company performed, so the choice of music and dance was both deliberate and effective.

Anna-Louise Plowman was much more kittenish tonight as Sybil, while Anthony Calf gave Victor a wider range of emotions. Toby Stephens was clearer tonight, and delivered some great lines with impeccable timing, and his scenes with Anna Chancellor showed a greater intimacy between the two main characters. The fight was still good fun too. The whole evening was just about as good as you can get with this play.

From the post-show we learned that they had deliberately avoided doing Noel Coward impersonations, which led to the dialogue sounding very modern and fresh. The director had insisted on running acts one and two together, which meant the technical crew had to work very hard to change the set in less than one minute! The cast had all contributed to the creation of each character, and had done a lot of work on the back stories too, including how they would have got to Deauville, how the cars would have been lifted off the ferry, etc. They weren’t expected to know their lines in advance – Jonathan Kent is apparently very good at creating a relaxed rehearsal room – but Anna Chancellor found that when the scene was right, the memorising would happen, not before. There were no understudies for this run – they just had to go on, which led to some stories from other productions where substitute actors had to read a part. Apparently Jonathan Kent had to go on for a missing actor during The Tempest at the Almeida, reading from the script. (You might think that would have taught him to cast understudies in the future, but obviously not.) The cast seemed to be having a good time with this production, and from the numbers staying behind tonight they were clearly doing a good job.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

King Lear – March 2012

10/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Company: Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Saturday 24th March 2012

Wow! This not only came on, it was significantly better than the earlier experience. I’ve upped the rating to the max, but it can’t really reflect just how good this performance was, with much more detail in all the portrayals, and a tremendous level of energy for the last performance of the run. I’ll cover as many points as I can remember, but I won’t be able to get it all down.

To begin with, I forgot to mention the music which was used so effectively in this production. It was mostly drums and trumpets, with fanfares for the arrival of important people and the like. We were also ‘treated’ to somebody’s musical ringtone for several seconds tonight which was a bit distracting, especially as it occurred during the bit where Regan is trying to persuade Lear to go back and stay with Goneril. They also used sound effects of hunting horns and dogs to convey the sense of Edgar being hunted, and therefore having to take on a disguise.

The opening section was much as before, although Kent and Gloucester were facing each other across the table at the start. Edmund was more clearly uncomfortable with the constant repetition of the story of his birth, not helped by his father mussing his hair, and his desire for advancement shone through in the obsequious way he offered his service to Kent. The entrance of the court was the same, but from our new angle I could see the reactions of the older daughters and their husbands much better tonight, and they were much more affected by Lear’s behaviour than I realised last time. Goneril was much more nervous than Regan, who came across as the more manipulative sister. I thought she might have been the much loved younger daughter at one point, and then along came Cordelia to spoil it all. Lear’s temper was much stronger this time, and his rage sent the other family members scuttling for cover. It made Goneril and Regan’s comments about his changeability quite plausible, and for once I felt they had reasonable grounds for complaint. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Kent was in my eye-line during Cordelia’s ‘nothing’ speech, and I could see how he approved of her comments. She was in fact being very reasonable, and Lear’s attitude was shown up as being completely deluded; Kent even used the word ‘mad’ to describe it, which didn’t please Lear. The Duke of Burgundy still had his cane with him, but didn’t need it this time, and after the court left, Edmund discussed the bastardy issue with us as usual but didn’t crumple the letter. As the servants cleared the soft furnishings, one threw the circlet onto the throne rather dismissively tonight.

The fool’s performance was much clearer than before, and he was very snappy with Lear in his opening scene, due to Lear having sent Cordelia away. I didn’t hear his lines ‘for so your eyes bid though your mouth…’ tonight, although there were other places where I heard lines I wasn’t used to. When he and Lear were sitting, waiting for the horses to be brought, Lear was more reflective this time.

I noticed the servants giggling behind Regan and Edmund when Kent was insulting everyone at Gloucester’s house, and it seemed clearer this time that Regan and Goneril were working out how to handle their father on the wing. Lear refused to weep at their mistreatment of him, but just then the thunder started, as if nature would do the weeping for him.

The fool didn’t give Poor Tom the close scrutiny he had last time; he was much more concerned about Lear. The blinding scene wasn’t any gorier from the other side, although my own vision was partly obscured by a combination of eyelids and hands. Edgar’s closing lines were a fitting ending, suggesting a brighter, if sadder, future. The rest was as before, and we left very happy that we’d seen such a tremendous performance.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me