Macbeth – May 2018

Experience: 6/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Rufus Norris

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Date: Tuesday 1st May 2018

We had read a few snippets about this production, as well as hearing comments from several friends, so we kept our expectations low when we took our seats for this performance. And as so often happens, that helped us to enjoy the good bits of this performance while not being distracted too much by the rubbish stuff, and when I say ‘rubbish’, you can take that literally. When the National wants to show the excesses of our materialistic, throwaway society, as in the Simon Russell Beale Timon several years ago, they do it in style. Well, there’s a lot of the Olivier stage to fill with something – might as well be bin bags.

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Macbeth – March 2018

Experience: 6/10

By William Shakespeare

Company: Tobacco Factory Theatres

Director: Adele Thomas

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Tuesday 6th March 2018

This is the first Shakespeare production by the Tobacco Factory Theatres Company. It fills the slot previously occupied by the Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory company (STF), who are now doing their productions in the autumn, but our main reason for wanting to see this particular Macbeth was the advance information we got last year at the RSC’s Summer School that Katy Stephens would be playing Lady Macbeth! Made this a must-see.

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – February 2018

Experience: 6/10

Adapted by David Edgar from the story by Robert Louis Stevenson

Directed by Kate Saxon

Venue: Rose Theatre, Kingston

Date: Thursday 15th February 2018

This was a decent attempt to put Stevenson’s story on the stage, but suffered from the usual problems of such adaptations – having to shift scenes very quickly as well as coping with visual changes which are done much more easily on TV and film. The cast did a reasonable job overall, and Phil Daniels created two clearly distinct performances as Jekyll and Hyde. The addition of a singer for this production was largely wasted on me, and I found the gloomy lighting a problem at times, as with increasing age I need more light to see by, not less. But this performance certainly kept my attention much better than the afternoon’s offerings, for which I was grateful.

The set had to accommodate several locations, and while it wasn’t the most sophisticated I’ve ever seen, it did the job pretty well. An upper balcony stretched across the centre of the stage, with a spiral staircase at the left side. Underneath was a filler wall which could be either the doors to Jekyll’s sister’s garden or the fireplace of Jekyll’s flat. For other locations it was usually left open. There were doors at either side of the wide stage, and an additional door, coloured bright red, in Jekyll’s lodgings, this being the door to the lab. Once through this door, a tall rack of glass bottles containing coloured liquids masked the right-hand door, while a table and overhead light took centre stage. With all of the furnishings removed, the stage became a gloomy London street.

The costumes and décor all contributed to the murky nature of the production. Dark clothes and dark paintwork made for dismal surroundings, but the cast did their best to keep things moving, and for the most part it worked quite well. My main problem was with the maid, Annie. It took me a long time to adjust to her accent, probably because it travelled round the British Isles at a fair lick. If it had settled down in one place, I would have been alright. Steve and I heard hints of Irish, Scottish and West Country, and that, combined with a tendency to gabble her lines, meant I got very little from her part at all. Since she was the one in the lab with Jekyll/Hyde at the end, when the final revelations were being presented, I lost most of the connection I’d had with the plot and found myself looking at my watch more than once. Even so, we enjoyed ourselves well enough, along with the rest of the audience.

© 2018 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Amadeus – February 2018

Experience: 6/10

By Peter Shaffer

Directed by Michael Longhurst

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Date: Thursday 1st February 2018

This was something of a disappointment. Given the high standard of some of his previous performances, we were looking forward to seeing Lucien Msamati as Salieri, as well as revisiting this excellent play in a different production. The reviews had been very good, although we hadn’t read any of the details, so it was only as we took our seats that the potential problems became apparent. Still, we kept our minds as open as possible and restrained our expectations: even so, I found myself revising my rating of the experience down and down again. Steve enjoyed it more than I did – he would have given it 7/10 – but we were largely in agreement with the overall standard. So was the paying public, it would seem, as this matinee was only just over half full, leaving large swathes of empty seats in the circle, rear stalls and sides.

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Gabriel – May 2017

Experience: 6/10

By Moira Buffini

Directed by Kate McGregor

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: 19th May 2017

It’s a good job Steve and I had already seen other plays by Moira Buffini which we enjoyed – if we had seen this one first we might not have booked for some of the others. Her inexperience shows in this, the first of her plays, through the underwritten characters, weak story and rather tepid ending. Some strong performances helped, as did some good humour, but the second half still dragged. Even making allowances for the fact that I was very tired after a hard week’s playgoing, I wouldn’t willingly watch this piece again. Steve got more out of this performance than I did, but not enough to raise the overall rating.

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Trespass – May 2017

Experience: 6/10

By Emlyn Williams

Directed by Patric Kearns

Company: Talking Scarlet

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Thursday 11th May 2017

The charms of an old-fashioned spooky play were lost on Guildford’s playgoers – tonight we were among only a few dozen who chose to spend their evening facing this stage. While this piece isn’t the best of its kind, and the production was towards the cheaper end of the spectrum, we found it enjoyable enough: perhaps a fuller auditorium would have given it more atmosphere, but maybe not.

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The Merchant Of Venice – May 2015

Experience: 6/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Polly Findlay

Venue: RST

Date: Tuesday 26th May 2015

This has only just been reviewed by the papers, so it’s still early in its run; hopefully it will come on from this shaky and rather uninspiring start. The production style included a fair amount of gimmicks – a swinging pendulum, mirrors at the back and on the floor, lots of candles – which often proved to be a distraction, and with very little detail in most of the performances I found I couldn’t care about these characters at all. The script had been heavily edited but the story was pretty clear; it’s just that their way of telling it didn’t engage me or give me any insight into the play. It’s possible that the inkblot style had been deliberately extended to the characterisations as well, supposedly allowing us to make our own minds up; although some people prefer that style of production, I generally find it unhelpful. Having said all this, we enjoyed ourselves enough to rate the performance at 6/10, so there’s the possibility of improvement on further viewing.

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