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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Romeo and Juliet – April 2018

Experience: 5/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Erica Whyman

Venue: RST

Date: Wednesday 25th April 2018

The stories of A View From The Bridge and Romeo and Juliet may have strong similarities, but there was no comparison between last night’s performance of the former and today’s offering of the latter. Last night: strong performances, plenty of tension and an enthralled audience which included many young people. Tonight, the younger audience members were impressed, to judge by the response, but we felt the production was patchy. It’s an early performance, of course, and we would expect the cast to get stronger as the run goes on, but whether we get anything more out of a second viewing remains to be seen.

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A View From The Bridge – April 2018

Experience: 10/10

By Arthur Miller

Directed by Mike Tweddle

Company: Tobacco Factory Theatres Company

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Tuesday 24th April 2018

This was a fantastic performance. In contrast to their Macbeth earlier this year, this production worked brilliantly to bring out the story and the characters, and kept us riveted throughout. The rest of the audience enjoyed it too, and with many younger folk among us, it was a great showcase for Arthur Miller’s work as well as this company’s.

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Humble Boy – March 2018

Experience: 8/10

By Charlotte Jones

Directed by Paul Miller

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 29th March 2018

It was good to see such a strong production here again, after our last visit. The set was good, the performances very good and we enjoyed ourselves very much. The only downside for me was that I’m currently waiting for an appointment to get my ears syringed – until that happens everything is a bit muffled. But in such a small space, and with such skilled actors, that wasn’t a problem today. I may have missed the occasional word, but that’s normal.

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The Duchess Of Malfi – March 2018

Preview performance

Experience: 4/10

By John Webster

Directed by Maria Aberg

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Wednesday 7th March 2018

We appreciated the first half of this show much more than the second: but for some design choices, which to us seemed unfortunate, this would have been a feather in Maria Aberg’s cap. As it is, tickets may be returned, and I certainly won’t be recommending this production to any of our friends. My main problem was the excessive amount of blood: although there are a lot of murders in this play, they aren’t all bloody, and the amount of artificial red stuff on show was simply unnecessary, especially for someone as squeamish as myself. Remove the carcass (more on that later), remove the blood, and I’d be more than happy to see this again.

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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