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.
Adapted by Christopher Sergel from the novel by Harper Lee
Directed by Timothy Sheader
Company: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
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.
This was a sweet, humorous and occasionally moving story about the relationship between a real-life father and son. The son, Charles, was so wayward from an early age that his father Roger named him Lupin after the errant son in Diary Of A Nobody, though from this version of events it’s doubtful whether the original Lupin would have been able to keep up with Charles as he drank, smoked and snorted his way through his schooldays and beyond.
We saw this same production three years ago and were keen to see how they were doing it now. We had contrasting opinions this time: I didn’t think the production had changed much (although the performances had naturally developed) while Steve felt it was very different and preferred this performance to the previous one. To be fair, he didn’t rate our first viewing as high as I had, a fact which, in the glow of a wonderful evening, I seem to have omitted from my notes.
This was a double bill. The first play was an adaptation by Margaret May Hobbs of M R James’ short story Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad, accompanied by The Signalman, adapted by Francis Evelyn from the story by Charles Dickens. We’ve enjoyed M R James’ work before – A Pleasing Terror and A Warning To The Curious were both good, chilling fun – and we were keen to see how this tale would work adapted into a play; the earlier performances were both narrations of the stories.
Adapted by Mike Poulton from the novel by Hilary Mantel
Directed by Jeremy Herrin
Venue: Swan Theatre
Date: Thursday 23rd January 2014
My experiment with these novels and plays has borne fruit. While Steve, not having read the books at all, would have rated this play slightly higher than me, I found the lack of background knowledge a hindrance for the first half, and although I picked up the threads quite quickly, the brisk pace left me feeling unsatisfied – I was too aware that there was a lot of detail missing and as I haven’t yet read the novel, I wasn’t privy to Cromwell’s inner thoughts. The final stage of the experiment will be to read Bring Up The Bodies and see what that feels like now that I’ve seen the play.
Adapted by Ella Hickson from the novel by J M Barrie
Directed by Jonathan Munby
Date: Wednesday 22nd January 2014
Steve and I are firmly in the ‘kids of all ages’ category, and we’ve enjoyed many a show that’s been aimed at children or a family audience; Swallows And Amazons and The Heart Of Robin Hood spring easily to mind. So we were a bit disappointed to find that this version of the Peter Pan story was sadly lacking in the fun department, with the writer’s feminist agenda making for an uneven and often boring play. We didn’t clap for Tinkerbell (die, bitch, die) but there were enough who did for her to spring to life again. Our fondness for Guy Henry meant that we preferred Captain Hook to the Lost Boys, and although I sniffled a bit during the final scene when Wendy and her mother made an emotional connection over the dead brother/son, this was not enough to make up for the rest of the evening. Once more we will be returning tickets for a second viewing; unusually for us, an evening in front of the telly would be more enjoyable than seeing this production again.
I want to make it clear that my criticism is entirely about the writing; the actors did a splendid job with the material they were given, the set had some magical aspects and I’m glad to say that there was some response from the audience at times, especially during the Tinkerbell poisoning incident. Even so, this is not a production that’s likely to be revived anytime soon. The second circle was empty and there were gaps in the stalls, so word has clearly got round.