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.

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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.

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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.

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Skerryvore – November 2015

Experience: 9/10

Venue: Ropetackle Centre, Shoreham

Date: Thursday 19th November 2015

We’d wanted to see this band for a while, and this concert, their furthest south in the British Isles, was an excellent opportunity. I got their first album last Christmas, and while their sound has matured – they’ve been together for ten years now – it was still good, raucous entertainment for a couple of hours.

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Hamlet – October 2015

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare (more or less)

Directed by Lyndsey Turner

Venue: Barbican Theatre

Date: Thursday 29th October 2015

With so much hype around this production, it was hard to avoid seeing any of the comments or reviews, but we still managed to come to it with open minds. And we found it brilliant! Not the best we’ve ever seen, perhaps, but with an outstanding central performance and some ingenious and thought-provoking changes to the usual text. The set design was amazing, and although the extended first half was asking a lot of the audience, the overall length was reasonable, especially with Fortinbras included in the line-up.

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Romeo And Juliet – October 2015

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Jonathan Humphreys

Venue: Crucible Theatre

Date: Tuesday 13th October 2015

We’re so glad that we came up to Sheffield to see this production. The version we saw at the Tobacco Factory earlier this year was very good, so our expectations for this performance were muted. Yet the creative team and the actors provided an evening to remember, so although there were no hugely innovative interpretations, the clarity of the dialogue and the intensity of feeling, especially from the two leads Freddie Fox and Morfydd Clark, made for a great evening of theatre.

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Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me – October 2015

Experience: 9/10

By Frank McGuinness

Directed by Michael Attenborough

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Monday 5th October 2015

This was a fabulous revival of a very intense play. The performances were all excellent and the staging quite superb. It’s no surprise that even such a difficult subject was generating full houses, given Chichester’s reputation for putting on good work in the Minerva, and the only pity is that this production won’t be seen by a wider audience.

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