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Posts Tagged ‘Rachael Stirling’

I’ve got a soft spot for this late Shakespeare play. How can you not like something with a man-eating bear, Time as a character to explain the passing of sixteen years between acts, a sheep-shearing festival with a dance of satyrs and a statue that comes alive! This production in the candlelit Sam Wanamaker is the finest I’ve ever seen.

It’s got a very dark beginning, with the king’s rampant suspicion and unfounded jealousy leading to deaths of the queen and the young prince and the abandonment of a baby princess. When the oracle declares the queen innocent, the king is initially unrepentant, but later becomes wracked with guilt. Meanwhile in Bohemia, the prince has fled and hooked up with a shepherd’s daughter but get’s found out at the aforementioned sheep-shearing festival. The progress from here to the happy ending is a joy.

Like Cymbeline a couple of weeks ago the play, also written for an indoor playhouse, fits this one like a glove. Again, it had few props but gorgeous costumes from Richard Kent and some particularly original and quirky choreography from Fleur Darkin.

John Light is a terrific Leontes and Rachael Stirling is great as Hermoine. I very much liked Niamh Cusak as Paulina and there was a superb comic turn from James Garnon as Autolycus. Luxury casting in the smaller parts too, with David Yelland particularly good as Antigonus and Fergal McElherron likewise as Camillo. Director Michael Longhurst has assembled an outstanding ensemble.

This late play season at the SWP is turning into a real treat. Bring on The Tempest!

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Mike Bartlett plays are enough of a draw to send me to Watford on a Wednesday afternoon during a tube strike! This one’s completely different from last week’s at the Almeida, though – a two-hander about friendship.

We first meet them when they’ve known each other for three years. She sees them as ‘best friends’; he’s not so sure. She berates him for failing to turn up at an anti-war demo; he doesn’t see the point. Over three more scenes, we watch the relationship develop (or not) through his marriage and fatherhood until, in the fifth and final scene, he gets a bit of a shock when he calls to seek support and refuge. It’s a very true representation of friendship, particularly the differing views of its strength and the impact of other relationships.

Played in front of the curtain, a bit like Morecambe & Wise (as Bartlett requests in his stage directions), or on a black box stage, it all hangs on the performances and Rachael Stirling & John Hollingworth are excellent individually, with great chemistry when together; they seem like real friends. James Grieve’s production has to move from playful banter to confession to tragedy and it does so with great delicacy.

Intimate Bartlett (like Cock) rather than epic Bartlett (like King Charles III); satisfying theatre nonetheless.

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I’m partial to a bit of Greek tragedy and Medea is one of my favourites. I’ve seen at least one operatic version, one in Japanese in the open air in the pouring rain (wonderful, by the way) and I’ve lost count of how many on stage, though the most memorable was with Diana Rigg at the Almeida 20 years ago. So there I was in Richmond Theatre watching her daughter, Rachael Stirling,  in Headlong Theatre’s very up-to-date version.

The story is surprisingly intact (though Medea and Jason only have one child). King Creon is her landlord Carter who seeks to evict her rather than send her into exile. The nurse, chorus and Aegeus are all neighbours. By the time Jason returns from his fateful wedding to the landlord’s daughter, she has killed his son and is on the roof of their blazing terraced house (substitute for flying chariot!). Mike Bartlett (who also directs) has produced an excellent and (almost) completely plausible adaptation.

Rachel Stirling is superb as Medea. She looks like her mother, but that’s about the only similarity with the Medea I saw when she was just 15. There were moments when I had to turn my head; the intensity of her performance really drew me in to the character and her story. There’s luxury casting in the supporting roles with Amelia Lowdell and Lu Corfield as bitchy neighbours Pam and Sarah, Paul Shelley as Andrew (Aegeus), Christopher Ettridge as Carter (Creon) and Adam Levy as Jason.

An excellent fresh take on a 2500 year old play, but you’ll have to go to Exeter to see it before the tour ends next week!

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