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Posts Tagged ‘David Troughton’

The RSC’s latest revival of The Merry Wives of Windsor is TOWIE does panto. I’m normally OK with updating and though there’s stuff to enjoy here its pushed a bit too far to be for me. The reference to Brexit was the last straw.

The Ford’s and Page’s are more Essex than Windsor, dressed appropriately, chavily. For some reason, other characters wear doublet and hose which makes for an incongruous combination. The stage boasts two two-storey houses which revolve to become backdrops but nothing really signposts the various locations; the denouement isn’t in Windsor Great Park, but a town square. There’s a Physical Comedy Director, so that tells you a bit about what you’re in for, though it’s mostly crude slapstick. There’s added references and changed lines and a lot of music from a live band who sounded a bit disconnected and distant playing in the wings.

The chief reason for seeing it is David Troughton’s terrific turn as Falstaff. He towers over everyone else, most of whom seem to be more caricatures than characters. He squeezes every ounce of comedy out of his character, without making him one-dimensional. In addition to the classic moments, like hiding in a basket, here a wheelie bin, there are other sublime additions, like swimming in an imaginary pool at the front of the auditorium.

Though I had reservations, the rest of the audience appeared to have none, so maybe I was ending 2018 as a grumpy old man. See for yourself, but there are only three performances left!

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It’s more than two years since I last saw King Lear (unless you count https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/king-lear-with-sheep), so though I didn’t strictly speaking need another Lear yet, it was impossible to resist Anthony Sher in the title role, my 13th Lear (not. counting the sheep!), my 7th theatrical Knight playing the role, and jolly good he is too.

Greg Doran’s production has an elegant, monochrome and gold visual aesthetic and the verse is very well spoken. It looks and sounds great. The opening scene gets us off to a good start (though I was puzzled by the glass box sedan chair) as Lear divides his kingdom amongst his daughters, except Cordelia, who refuses to be sycophantic like her sisters and ends up disinherited and married off to the French king. The scenes where Lear is to-ing and fro-ing between Goneril’s and Reagan’s homes are fairly standard, but the production comes into its own during the storm (unfortunately halted for 15 minutes due to a technical fault on the night I went), then madness and multiple deaths.

Sher is a great Lear, bags of regal presence and totally believably mad, but it’s the strength of the whole cast that swept me away. Great to see David Troughton again (taking time out from The Archers!); an excellent Gloucester. Antony Byrne is a great Kent and Graham Turner a great Fool (with a lovely visual ad lib at the halt). I’m kicking myself for missing Paapa Essiedu’s Hamlet because he’s a terrific machiavellian Edmund, brilliantly matched by Oliver Johnstone as Edgar, as fine as Old Tom as I’ve ever seen it played. The RSC is certainly doing its bit for diversity, with 40% of the cast from ethnic minorities.

There’s nothing ground-breaking about it, but it oozes quality from every pore. A fine production.

 

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