King Lear – October 2017

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Jonathan Munby

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Thursday 5th October 2017

We’re so glad that Sir Ian McKellen decided to have another go at this part. We found the earlier production, part of the RSC’s Complete Works season, rather dull, but there was no lack of tension and excitement in tonight’s performance. The emotional aspects of the various characters were fully developed this time, while the staging was brisk and the story-telling clear, all of which made for a much more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

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Othello – February 2017

Experience: 8/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Richard Twyman

Company: Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and The Tobacco Factory

Venue: The Tobacco Factory

Date: Monday 27th February 2017

Another fantastic production from STF, with the emphasis clearly on the text and the characters. The two young actors playing Othello and Desdemona did good work, but for me it was the brilliance of Mark Lockyer’s Iago supported by Katy Stephen’s perfectly pitched Emilia that made this performance so powerful. There were one or two aspects which didn’t work quite so well, but this is a production I would recommend highly to anyone: it’s a shame the public haven’t responded by making it a sell out for the whole of its run.

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The Merry Wives – May 2016

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare (slightly adapted)

Directed by Barry Rutter

Company: Northern Broadsides

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud

Date: Wednesday 11th May 2016

We like Northern Broadsides’ no-nonsense approach to Shakespeare’s texts, so we weren’t bothered to find that this version of Merry Wives was no longer set in Windsor, but had been relocated to a country club a few miles outside Harrogate (information courtesy of a post-show chat with the cast). The costumes located the play in the 1920s (with some variations) and the set created a stylish yet simple space for all of the action, with little need to trundle lots of furniture on and off. There was a replica of a 1920s treadmill and three lovely examples of period bicycles, including a tandem, to add to the fun, and the few alterations to the text included the “old woman of Ilkley”, a perfectly acceptable substitution. Apart from that, the dialogue was as expected, and the performance fairly zinged along, with some lovely business to keep us entertained. A shame there were so few of us to enjoy the fun – the auditorium was about a third full – but hopefully they will get better attendances later in the week.

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All’s Well That Ends Well – April 2016

Experience: 10/10

By William Shakespeare, adapted by Dominic Power

Directed by Andrew Hilton

Company: STF and TFT

Venue: Tobacco Factory

Date: Wednesday 13th April 2016

Tonight we sat directly opposite our previous seats, which not only gave us a great view of tonight’s performance, but also a completely different perspective. The cast had made good use of the extra practice, and all the performances had developed nicely; although there were still a few fluffs, nothing detracted from the marvellous energy and pace with which they drove this story along, and there were some lovely extra details here and there. Sadly, the house was not full, so clearly word has not yet got out about how wonderful this production is. I’m tempted to ask my maestro of the scheduling (aka Steve) to see if we can squeeze in another viewing during the tour, but one look at my diary – we have a LOT coming up – suggests that won’t be possible. Catch it if you can.

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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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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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