Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘David Calder’

I’ve lost track of the number of productions of this play I’ve seen. In the last five years alone there’s been the RSC’s African one, Dominic Dromgoole’s ‘inside and out’ at both The Globe and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the Donmar’s all-female prison setting and the RSC’s classical take earlier this month. Could the new Bridge Theatre add anything? Well, as it turns out, it does. It proves to be a very versatile space, transforming into a sort of indoor Globe, without the restriction of a stage and with a very flexible floor which solves sight line issues for smaller promenaders!

Nicholas Hytner’s production is very raucous, at times feeling like live news unfolding. There’s live heavy rock as you enter, the promenade audience swaying and swelling as the start time approaches. As the band leave, the crowd swells again, this time with Romans cheering the return of their new hero Julius Caesar. The staging is particularly effective with crowd and battle scenes, with the audience expertly marshalled, acting as extras, but the more intimate conspiratorial scenes work well too, making you feel like you’re eves-dropping on the conversations. One of the most striking things about it is how the verse feels totally naturalistic and contemporary. I felt that I absorbed more than ever, and like the RCS’s a few weeks ago, the contemporary parallels are extraordinary, without being heavy-handed or loaded with gimmicks.

Cassius and Casca are women, with Michelle Fairley giving a particularly fine performance as the former. Ben Wishaw’s intelligent characterisation of Brutus is introspective but with steely determination. David Morrisey commands the space as Mark Anthony, putting on the swagger before the play even starts. David Calder is a more complex Caesar, enjoying the adulation yet somehow uncomfortable with all its trappings. Luxury casting indeed.

My only gripe was the distraction and disrespect of people coming and going from the pit, with ushers talking to them as they did. They need to be firm about no re-entry, which could be helped by ceasing to sell drink in the space, which no doubt contributes to their need to leave during the unbroken two hours!

An unmissable Julius Caesar for our times.

Read Full Post »

I broke my self-imposed Shaw ban last night and, on balance, I wish I hadn’t. I know he’s an important playwright, but I want more than a moving 3D museum experience when I go to the theatre. I felt I was being told ‘Look, this is a classic. It’s rarely revived. You have to see it’ and I fell for it.

It’s not as fusty as most of Shaw. It’s a (sort of) comedy but it is a bit odd. We start in the consulting rooms of a doctor who has just been knighted. His colleagues visit to congratulate him. At this point you think it’s a satire on the medical profession; they all appear to be pushing one therapy to make their name (and money).

The play turns on the arrival of a woman desperate for treatment for her artist husband who has TB. Somewhat implausibly, she and her husband join the doctors for dinner, during which they all drool over the wife and are unwittingly conned by her husband. When they discover his trickery, they visit his garret to confront him (and drool over her some more). The doctor who was to treat him now refuses and another takes over. He doesn’t survive. The doctor who declined treatment reveals his true motivation.

The play pits the morals of the medical profession against those of the con artist, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s implausibility is at the core of why it didn’t work (for me) and it takes a long time to make it’s somewhat slight points. You can’t fault the production, though. It’s an impressive NT debut for director Nadia Fall and Peter McKintosh’s sets are uber-realistic period pieces (maybe a bit too much so, adding to the museum feel). It’s a fine cast with Malcolm Sinclair particularly funny as the pompous Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington. David Calder was good (and unrecognisable) as Sir Patrick Cullen, though his accent wasn’t consistent and Aden Gillett and Maggie McCarthy give fine performances as the newly knighted Sir Colenso Ridgeon and his housekeeper . 

In the end though, it’s another one of those ‘great productions, pity about the play’ evenings; hopefully I will have more will-power when Shaw turns up again.

Read Full Post »