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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Doctor Faustus – March 2016

Experience: 3/10

By Christopher Marlowe

Directed by Maria Aberg

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Wednesday 30th March 2106

Maria Aberg is fast heading for “Danger, Will Robinson” status, given to those directors whose work we avoid so as not to waste any of our precious remaining minutes on this planet. This production moved her a good few notches closer – only memories of her As You Like It stand between her and oblivion. (I doubt this will trouble her in the least.) Tonight’s offering was dire in every way except the performances by the lead actors – we have huge respect for the work they do, and given the unfortunate nature of the production they did as well as could be expected. Even so, I avoided adding to the applause at the end, and Steve’s contribution was polite but unenthusiastic.

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Hamlet – March 2016

Experience: 8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Simon Godwin

Company: RSC

Venue: RST

Date: Tuesday 29th March 2016

This was a fascinating production. The choice of setting – the Central African Kingdom of Denmark – added spice and plenty of colour to the usually dour atmosphere, and the combination of clear dialogue and some strong ensemble performances made for an enjoyable and occasionally gripping evening. I still have reservations about a few of the staging choices, and there were some periods when the energy dropped a bit, but Paapa Essiedu showed his star credentials with his intelligent and mercurial portrayal of the central character. We could see some echoes of his Romeo from last year at the Tobacco Factory, but these were very slight, and didn’t detract from his amazing stage presence and total embodiment of his role. I will be very interested to see this again and indeed any future productions in which this young man participates.

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Hamlet – February 2016

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Produced by STF and Tobacco Factory Theatres

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Wednesday 24th February 2016

Interesting to see another production of Hamlet here after Jonathan Miller’s excellent version with Jamie Ballard back in 2008. This didn’t reach the same heights, but as it was an early performance we expect the overall standard to improve. And there was a lot to like here, with a brisk edition of the text and some lively sword-fighting. We hope to see it again once they’ve settled into it more, but in any case this was a good start. [Didn’t manage to make the second viewing.]

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Queen Anne – January 2016

Experience: 8/10

By Helen Edmundson

Directed by Natalie Abrahami

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Wednesday 13th January 2016

We enjoyed seeing this again, and while the performance had certainly come on a bit since November, I felt that overall it was just as good as last time, although Steve would have rated it at 9/10. Natascha McElhone showed a great deal more confidence as Lady Sarah Churchill, and the dialogue may have been even crisper, though as this was the captioned performance, and our seats put us almost in a direct line with the screen, I can’t be sure. One very noticeable change was that the auditorium was packed tonight – almost every seat was filled. The two next to us on the aisle were vacant – more on that story later – but otherwise it was close to a sell-out.

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Love For Love (understudies) – December 2015

Experience: 8/10

By William Congreve

Directed by Theo Scholefield

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Tuesday 8th December 2015

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.

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