We appreciated the first half of this show much more than the second: but for some design choices, which to us seemed unfortunate, this would have been a feather in Maria Aberg’s cap. As it is, tickets may be returned, and I certainly won’t be recommending this production to any of our friends. My main problem was the excessive amount of blood: although there are a lot of murders in this play, they aren’t all bloody, and the amount of artificial red stuff on show was simply unnecessary, especially for someone as squeamish as myself. Remove the carcass (more on that later), remove the blood, and I’d be more than happy to see this again.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
By William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, John Ford, and possibly others.
Edited and directed by Gregory Doran
Venue: Swan Theatre
Date: Tuesday 28th October 2014
We missed the RSC’s previous Witch as we weren’t coming regularly to Stratford at the time, so this production was one we were very keen to see. This final part of the Roaring Girls season – Greg was accepted as an honorary ‘Roaring Girl’ by the other (female) directors – was the only one to be done in Jacobean dress, which made a pleasant change from the persistent updating in the other three productions. Modern dress or similar is fine, but we agreed with Greg’s point in the pre-show talk about the risk of not allowing the audience to make their own connections to present-day circumstances, something clearly not considered often enough by many directors today.
We saw this same production three years ago and were keen to see how they were doing it now. We had contrasting opinions this time: I didn’t think the production had changed much (although the performances had naturally developed) while Steve felt it was very different and preferred this performance to the previous one. To be fair, he didn’t rate our first viewing as high as I had, a fact which, in the glow of a wonderful evening, I seem to have omitted from my notes.