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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Volpone – July 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Ben Jonson, with script revisions by Ranjit Bolt

Directed by Trevor Nunn

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Thursday 23rd July 2015

This fantastic production was a joy to watch. There was so much going on that I couldn’t take it all in first time around, so I’m already looking forward to our next viewing which will be tomorrow’s understudy run. The performances were all excellent, and apart from a couple of the accents being a little harder to tune into than the others, the dialogue was crystal clear, including some modern additions.

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The Merchant Of Venice – May 2015

Experience: 6/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Polly Findlay

Venue: RST

Date: Tuesday 26th May 2015

This has only just been reviewed by the papers, so it’s still early in its run; hopefully it will come on from this shaky and rather uninspiring start. The production style included a fair amount of gimmicks – a swinging pendulum, mirrors at the back and on the floor, lots of candles – which often proved to be a distraction, and with very little detail in most of the performances I found I couldn’t care about these characters at all. The script had been heavily edited but the story was pretty clear; it’s just that their way of telling it didn’t engage me or give me any insight into the play. It’s possible that the inkblot style had been deliberately extended to the characterisations as well, supposedly allowing us to make our own minds up; although some people prefer that style of production, I generally find it unhelpful. Having said all this, we enjoyed ourselves enough to rate the performance at 6/10, so there’s the possibility of improvement on further viewing.

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Oppenheimer – January 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Tom Morton-Smith

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Tuesday 20th January 2015

Wow. We didn’t have high expectations for this play, despite it being in the Swan and starring John Heffernan (one of our favourite actors) as Oppenheimer himself. We were prepared for it to be a bit dry, a bit too technical, perhaps even – dare I say it? – a bit boring, but the whole thing was an amazing piece of theatre, with music, jokes and lots of interesting information as well as lively debates. And yes, the horrific effects of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were brought out in a very effective and moving way. Given that this was a preview, I’d expect the performances to come on even more, and now that we know who is who in the story, our second viewing should bring out much more detail. Time will tell.

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The Christmas Truce – January 2015

Experience: 9/10

By Phil Porter

Directed by Erica Whyman

Venue: RST

Date: Thursday 15th January 2015

We enjoyed this production so much when we saw it before Christmas last year that we decided to fit in another viewing, so here we are. Again we sat in the centre front stalls, the same seats as for the understudy run, so no complaints about our view. One young lad did a ‘wiggle’ dance to celebrate his success at the coconut shy, but otherwise the standard was pretty poor – Chris had to use his foot on one occasion or we’d have still been sitting there now waiting for the start!

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