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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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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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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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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The Christmas Truce – December 2015 (2)

Experience: 9/10

Understudy performance

By Phil Porter

Directed by Jane Moriarty

Venue: RST

Date: Friday 19th December 2014

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.

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The Christmas Truce – December 2014

Experience: 8/10

By Phil Porter

Directed by Erica Whyman

Venue: RST

Date: Thursday 18th December 2014

We were in a bit of a rush getting to this performance; slow service at the restaurant meant we took our seats just after 7 p.m., and since there was pre-show entertainment, we will be sure to get in earlier next time. The village fete was already under way, with a couple of the cast on stage in Edwardian costume, bringing young children up from the audience to have a go at the coconut shy. There was applause when they succeeded – even when Chris Nayak helped out one young lad by knocking the coconut stand over – and Steve spotted that the youngsters were given something by the lady before they left the stage, possibly a voucher for an ice cream?

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Love’s Labour’s Won – October 2014

Experience: 9/10

aka Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Christopher Luscombe

Venue: RST

Date: Wednesday 29th October 2014

Brilliant. We’d heard from one or two sources that this version of Much Ado had been altered to make it fit into the Love’s Labour’s Lost mould, and that it was less enjoyable as a result. Not a bit of it. We realised early on that the impact of the Great War was being completely ignored, and that the play’s lightness and jollity were intact, even if the text had been well trimmed. The set was basically the same, although there were some different locations, and with the passing of four years, the style of the costumes had altered to fit.

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