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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Love’s Labour’s Lost Understudies – October 2014

Experience: 8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Guy Unsworth

Company: RSC Understudies

Venue: RST

Date: Friday 24th October 2014

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.

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Love’s Labour’s Lost – October 2014

Experience: 8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Christopher Luscombe

Venue: RST

Date: Thursday 23rd October 2014

I was concerned during the early scenes of this performance that I wouldn’t enjoy myself half as much as I had for the previous RSC production (starring David Tennant, and, incidentally, with Edward Bennett as the King and Sam Alexander as Dumaine – both are promoted this time around). We sat by the left walkway a few rows back, and my sightlines were poor; the stage design and blocking meant that I had a great view of several actors’ backs and saw little of the early reactions and exchanges. Don Armado chose to lie down a lot on one or other of the various sofas, so it was hard to see his facial expressions, and the only glimpse I had of Jaquenetta’s face in her first scene was when she turned to give a flirtatious wave ‘goodbye’ to Costard. The dialogue wasn’t as clear as I would have liked either, so I was feeling a bit flat until about half-way through. After that, the comedy built beautifully and I was laughing loud and often until near the end of the evening when the tears started to come as well – more on that later.

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Henry IV part 1 – May 2014

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Gregory Doran

Venue: RST

Date: Wednesday 28th May 2014

This is a rather clunky production at the moment, but there’s potential for improvement. We have some other visits planned for later in the year, so hopefully we’ll enjoy seeing the performances come on.

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Wendy & Peter Pan – January 2014

Experience: 5/10

Adapted by Ella Hickson from the novel by J M Barrie

Directed by Jonathan Munby

Venue: RST

Date: Wednesday 22nd January 2014

Steve and I are firmly in the ‘kids of all ages’ category, and we’ve enjoyed many a show that’s been aimed at children or a family audience; Swallows And Amazons and The Heart Of Robin Hood spring easily to mind. So we were a bit disappointed to find that this version of the Peter Pan story was sadly lacking in the fun department, with the writer’s feminist agenda making for an uneven and often boring play. We didn’t clap for Tinkerbell (die, bitch, die) but there were enough who did for her to spring to life again. Our fondness for Guy Henry meant that we preferred Captain Hook to the Lost Boys, and although I sniffled a bit during the final scene when Wendy and her mother made an emotional connection over the dead brother/son, this was not enough to make up for the rest of the evening. Once more we will be returning tickets for a second viewing; unusually for us, an evening in front of the telly would be more enjoyable than seeing this production again.

I want to make it clear that my criticism is entirely about the writing; the actors did a splendid job with the material they were given, the set had some magical aspects and I’m glad to say that there was some response from the audience at times, especially during the Tinkerbell poisoning incident. Even so, this is not a production that’s likely to be revived anytime soon. The second circle was empty and there were gaps in the stalls, so word has clearly got round.

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Richard II – November 2013

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Gregory Doran

Venue: RST

Date: Thursday 7th November 2013

Prime seats tonight, looking straight down the centre aisle. As we suspected, the production had shifted up a gear, and tonight’s performance was a huge improvement on the preview we saw. The imbalances we’d seen before had gone, with strong acting all round and more detail in the performances, and they also brought out much more of the humour in the play which usually indicates that the cast have settled in. Richard’s hair seemed to be behaving better – David Tennant looked uncomfortable with it last time – and Bolingbroke had toned down his barrow boy accent to a sensible level. There were no significant changes to the staging that I saw, but I was reminded of several details which I hadn’t noted last time, so here goes.

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