Due to Edward Bennett being unavailable for tonight’s performance, the RSC’s understudies program swung into action at the last minute, providing an able substitute for the part of MacDuff in John Macaulay (usually murderer, chamberlain, member of Scottish forces). Others were bumped up to fill the gaps, and although we were aware he was an understudy, I don’t feel the performance suffered too much from the changeover. Another viewing when Ed has returned would be interesting, but for now we were happy with the cast we saw.
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.
The advantage of a production with such a loose, interactive style of performance is that the understudies’ run fits in perfectly. Pre-prepared mistakes are part of the enjoyment, so a few unintended ones from time to time can slot right in. This audience was already in an end-of-term mood, so the pre-show ‘warm-up’ was off to a flying start. We were sitting on the right hand side of the stage this time, close to the front, so we had an even more detailed view of the performance, and after yesterday’s fun we made sure we were in early to enjoy as much as we could of the initial activities.
This was even more enjoyable than yesterday’s performance. We were siting centrally in the front stalls, and had a great view of the action, plus, as it was the understudy run, we had the added benefit of the atmosphere that creates. We came earlier as well, though as it turns out we didn’t miss much yesterday, as the fun only started about fifteen minutes beforehand.
Our seats were much better for this performance – plum in the middle of the front stalls. Our view was excellent, and with the extra fun generated by the constraints of the Understudy run, this was a wonderful afternoon in the theatre. Nothing much to add to the lengthy description of the set in my previous notes, except that I spotted a telescope on a stand in the library, near the door back right. I also noticed a piece of paper attached to the wall beside the right tower door, and assumed it was the proclamation mentioned in the play. It disappeared later – didn’t see it being removed.
A very nervous assistant director spoke to us before this afternoon’s performance; forgetting to introduce himself, he briefly explained the RSC’s understudy policy and warned us that we might be seeing some actors playing several parts, with only some slight costume changes to differentiate the characters. Being old hands at this game this was no surprise, but to be honest I never had a problem with who was playing who – the performances were very clear and the characterisations strong, remarkably so for such a short rehearsal period. Our compliments to all concerned.
By Thomas Middleton, edited by Sean Foley and Phil Porter
Directed by Sean Foley
Venue: Swan Theatre
Date: Monday 16th September 2013
I was very glad we could fit this production in one more time before the run ends. There was no surprise value of course, and we both felt that tonight’s audience took a while to warm up, but it was still a great deal of fun. We had the added pleasure of seeing an understudy tonight as well – Jonny Weldon took the part of Oboe, and did a good job in the role.
The Prince is now in the building! After our earlier visits in March and May had left us wondering if Jonathan Slinger would ever get his performance together, I’m delighted to report that his Hamlet is now alive and kicking until the final seconds of this splendid production. With the rest of the cast putting their all into the show, this is one of the strongest versions of Hamlet we’ve seen. Tonight we sat by the right hand walkway, with a good view across the stage diagonal. Some extra aspects were clearer from this angle, and although there were one or two minor changes to the staging, on the whole the production was as I noted it up before. The strength of the central performance was the main difference, and it changed the standard tremendously.
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.
These understudy runs can be really good fun and very interesting; seeing how an actor manages to find their own performance within an established production can be enlightening, so we were keen to see how the understudies would handle their roles in this unusual, design driven production. Apart from Greg Hicks playing the roles of Claudius and the ghost – John Stahl was unavailable – everyone else was playing a different part while most of the other leads – Jonathan Slinger, Pippa Dixon, Alex Waldmann and Robin Soans – were occasionally on stage as extras. Jonathan Slinger took the part of Gonzago in the initial mime sequence.