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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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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Love For Love – December 2015

Experience: 8/10

By William Congreve

Directed by Selina Cadell

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Monday 7th December 2015

Nearly thirty years ago we saw a production of this play at the National, with an amazing cast which included Michael Bryant, Stephen Moore, Amanda Redman, Sara Kestleman and Sally Dexter amongst the leading actors. Despite this, neither of us has any recollection of the play or the performances: I suspect the language was much too dense for me due to my lack of experience with Restoration dialogue, and Steve may have a similar excuse. Tonight, thanks to the RSC, we had all the fun of rediscovering this little gem, and in a production which would be hard to forget, regardless of the density of the language. This production sparkled with wit and cheeky humour, the cast were all excellent, and the RSC should probably be claiming royalties from The Play That Goes Wrong, since their use of carefully rehearsed ‘accidents’ has been going on for several decades now, and will be continuing into the foreseeable future judging by this performance. Plenty to enjoy already, and we have all the fun of an understudy run tomorrow as well. Jubilate!

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Hecuba – October 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Marina Carr

Directed by Erica Whyman

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Thursday 1st October 2015

A number of people had told us about this play beforehand: there was a lot of reported speech and it ran for one hour fifty minutes without an interval (actually one hour forty-five on the night). It was also heavy going in the manner of most Greek-based drama, with lots of suffering and unpleasantness and little in the way of humour to lighten the mood. Having said that, we found there were some laughs, but on the whole the piece had a poetic intensity which accentuated the suffering. We ‘enjoyed’ it, but for once we’re happy not to have booked a second visit, although if it gets a revival in a few years’ time we’ll probably see it again.

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Othello – July 2015

Experience: 5/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Iqbal Khan

Venue: RST

Date: Friday 24th July 2015

This was a strange experience. Both Steve and I rated one performance considerably higher than the production as a whole, and that doesn’t happen often. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, we’re looking forward to our second viewing as we’ve often found in the past that once we’ve adjusted to the way a production is being done, we can get a lot more out of a return visit, not to mention the possibility of improvements happening over time.

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