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Posts Tagged ‘Claire van Kampen’

For Mark Rylance’s return to Shakespeare’s Globe, as Iago, he’s paired with American actor Andre Holland as Othello, in a pared-down production by his wife, and the Globe’s former Director of Music, Claire van Kampen, and it’s good to report its success.

With just twelve actors, running at a little over 2.5 hours, there are cuts in both lines and roles, some doubling up and two actresses play male roles, but none of these changes seem to damage Shakespeare’s tragedy. If anything, by concentrating on the six main characters the story has more focus. Holland is a fine Othello, with his accent further emphasising the character’s difference. Rylance shows us a multi-faceted Iago, with touches of flippancy and humour, often speaking and moving around quickly, with makes him seem even more villainous. Emilia, too, gains in significance. It has more pace, without damaging the intimate scenes. Jonathan Fensom’s design concentrates on the costumes, which are excellent, so the performances can breathe in a largely unadorned space.

Holland and Rylance make a fine pairing, but there are other great performances too. Sheila Atim’s superb Emilia is particularly good in the final scene where she realises the role her husband has played in her mistresses demise, and she closes the show singing beautifully. Jessica Warbeck as Desdemona handles her emotional roller-coaster well, and has great chemistry with her husband. Aaron Pierre is a passionate Cassio, a professional stage debut no less. The characterisation of Roderigo is unusual, highly strung and effete, but it made him more interesting, and Steffan Donnelly played him very well.

After the audience ruined my evening at The Two Noble Kinsmen recently, I said that this might be my last visit to Shakespeare’s Globe. The theatre gods must have been listening, as last night’s audience was respectful and rapt, with moments where you couldn’t hear a pin drop, erupting in appreciation at the end. This was indeed a fine night at the Globe.

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It seems that the current view is that this late Shakespeare play was in fact a collaboration with George Wilkins, with Will writing the last three acts. It’s another odd concoction, but fascinating nonetheless, and like the other two in this Sam Wanamaker Playhouse winter season, it benefits greatly from the suitability of the venue. Somehow, these plays seems less implausible and less preposterous in this setting!

Pericles, Prince of Tyre, is ‘on the run’ from the King of Antioch and his henchmen, having discovered the widowed king’s incest with his daughter when he was solving the riddle for her hand in marriage. His journey takes him from Antioch back to Tyre and on to Tarsus, to Pentapolis (after a shipwreck) where he wins the king’s daughter’s hand in marriage in a tournament, back to Tyre (through a storm, during which his new bride dies giving birth to their child) but diverted to Tarsus again where he leaves his new daughter in the care of the governor and his wife. Fourteen years later his daughter is abducted and sold to a brothel in Mytilene, whose governor rescues her, which leads to her reunion with her father and not so dead mother. Phew!

Dominic Dromgoole’s staging is simple and nifty and it races along, challenging you to keep up and keep breathing.  It’s helped by a narrator who introduces the play and each act (a terrific Sheila Reid). It switches mood often and the incest and rather graphic brothel scene make it more than a bit shocking. Yet, it feels completely at home in the candlelit SWP. There’s lovely music from Claire van Kampen, played by an onstage quartet and a fine 14-piece ensemble with a lot of doubling-up.

Three shows in and I’m thoroughly enjoying this late play season. Bring on The Tempest!

 

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You wouldn’t want to be a young boy growing up in 18th Century Italy with a talent for singing. The odds of castration to conserve your voice would be high, and the subsequent odds of a successful career very low. Farinelli (real name Carlo Broschi) was unlucky in that he got the knife (pork butchers, apparently!) but lucky in that he got the singing career. He travelled throughout Italy, then to Munich and Vienna and on to London aged 29, though he wasn’t a favourite of Handel, adopted Londoner and probably the most famous composer of the time.

Three years into his London career, he get’s the call from Spain’s Queen Isabella to come sing for King Philippe V to cure his depression. He pops in on Louis XV in Paris en route (as one does) and on to Madrid. Philippe’s mental health condition was what we now call bi-polar. He was close to being deposed when Farinelli arrived as a singing cure, and he did indeed lift his spirits. In the play, the king is fond of talking to goldfish and plants and at one point moves their home to the middle of the forest where he grows things and his wife cooks things, and Farinelli sings, often in the middle of the night to accommodate Philippe’s nocturnal habits. He stayed, singing exclusively for the royals for more than twenty years; it’s a bit of a puzzle as to why he gave up his career for this.

Claire van Kampen’s play has a lightness of touch and if often very funny. Philippe is at the lovable eccentric end of the madness scale and we are laughing with him more than at him. I can think of no-one more suited to the role than Mark Rylance, an eccentric himself, who seems as if he’s making it up as he goes along, such is the naturalism of his magnetic performance. Farinelli is acted by Sam Crane with counter-tenor Iestyn Davies never far behind in matching costumes with heavenly singing. It’s an unusual evening, but it captured my imagination and wrapped me in its warmth.

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is the perfect venue. Jonathan Fensom’s design and costumes are sumptuous. Robert Howarth’s period quartet played beautifully from the gallery and onstage. The candlelight is perfect. A lovely evening.

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Director Tim Carroll has been responsible for some of the best things The Globe has done, notably Twelfth Night (about to be revived), Richard II and Romeo & Juliet. This too is a  ‘traditional practices’ all-male production and it has Mark Rylance, a great Shakespearian actor, in the lead. Sad to report then that in my view it’s a bit of a misfire.

On this occasion, Jenny Tiramani’s costumes are part of the problem. They are loud and cartoonish and make it difficult to take any male character seriously. The second problem is that Roger Lloyd-Pack is badly miscast as Buckingham; he has no presence and doesn’t project. On this occasion, engaging the Globe audience gets in the way of the drama, rather than drawing you in. The fatal flaw, though, is the decision to play Richard as some sort of cartoon baddie rather than a tyrant. You just couldn’t believe he could dispatch so many in his desperation for power.

There are some things to enjoy! Claire van Kampen’s music is lovely (thought the musicians participate in costumegate). Performance-wise, Samuel Barnett makes a great queen and Johnny Flynn and James Garnon are very good as Lady Anne and the Duchess of York respectively. The young actors playing the princes, despite their bright pink satin costumes, spoke the verse beautifully and clearly. In fact, Lloyd-Pack notwithstanding, the standard of verse speaking was excellent, though placing too much at centre stage went against audience engagement and resulted in even poorer sight lines than we’re used to at The Globe (those two bloody pillars!).

The show is still in preview, so there is hope they might make a partial recovery, but it’s probably too late to make enough changes to rescue this misguided outing of a great play.

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