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Posts Tagged ‘Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre’

John Ford is a 17th century Quentin Tarantino. This revenge tragedy has incest, torture, a handful of murders and a lot of blood. If it was written today it would be controversial, so I can’t imagine what they thought 400 years ago.

A few suitors are circling Annabella but before any get very far her brother Giovanni confesses his love for her, only to find it’s reciprocated and then quickly consummated. They agree she has to marry one of her suitors anyway and she’s soon betrothed and wed to Soranzo, but on their wedding night he discovers she’s already pregnant, so clearly no virgin! Thus begins the carnage which ends with five dead bodies at Soranzo’s birthday party.

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse was created for Jacobean plays like this and it fits it like a glove. It’s handsomely costumed by Alex Lowde and excellently staged by Michael Longhurst, with a nice touch of quirkiness. The bed scene is both sexy and squirmy, the treatment of Annabella by her new husband when her plight is revealed is truly shocking and the final bloody scene is masterly.

Fiona Button and Max Bennett are well matched and sexy siblings. The rest of the fine cast includes the excellent Michael Gould as the Friar, Giovanni’s confidante, Morag Siller as a great Putana, Annabella’s confidante, and Sam Cox, as their dad Donado, makes a very believable transition from proud father to distraught father who can’t live with the truth. Stefano Braschi is very good as the affronted Soramzo and James Garnon almost steals the show as a brilliantly buffoonish Bergetto, one of the suitors, returning after his character’s murder as a stern, ice cool Cardinal.

Within a year of it’s opening, the SWP has established itself as a flexible, intimate and indispensable space. This is the first Jacobean drama I’ve seen here, but it’s also been successful staging Shakespeare and early music and opera.

Bloody brilliant.

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Though I’ve seen both Julius Caesar and Anthony & Cleopatra a number of times before, I’ve never seen them within months let alone days of one another. So call me a dummy, but it only dawned on me when I saw this the day after JC that they effectively constitute sequential Roman history and share three characters – the Roman triumvirate of Octavius Caesar, Lepidus and Mark Anthony that replaced Julius Caesar when he was murdered. Why don’t theatres pair them like they do the (British) history plays? In this case, The Globe opened A&C before JC and they have different casts (otherwise you’d be wondering how Mark Anthony managed to age so much and pile on the pounds overnight!)

A brilliant opening of Egyptian music and dancing sets the scene for a production which moves seamlessly from Rome to Egypt and back in an excellent design, with superb costumes, by Colin Richmond (I think I might have to steal Cleopatra’s gold winged throne); you really feel you are experiencing two different cultures. Jonathan Munby injects great pace and physicality into the play but still allows more intimate scenes their space, though it does make you feel all the fun is to be had in Egypt and Rome is rather dull in comparison (though the drinking scene in Pompey’s camp is a glorious exception).

Eve Best’s Cleopatra is a combination of feisty, playful and sexy, with more costume changes than a Kylie Minogue concert (not that I’d know, of course) enabling her to look like a pirate queen, a seductress and the most regal of royals amongst others. She even flirts with the audience and one groundling got very good value for his £5 with a full on kiss on the lips! Her closeness with her attendants Charmian (an excellent Sirine Saba) and Iras (Rosie Hilal, who doubles up as Octavia almost unrecognisably) is very much in the fore. Clive Wood’s Anthony emphasises his infatuation with the much younger Cleopatra but also the psychological and emotional pull back to Rome; a typical mid-life crisis.

This is as good an Anthony & Cleopatra as Julius Caesar is as good a production of that play and I really enjoyed seeing them in the right order so close together, even if it wasn’t intentional!

The Globe was buzzing this weekend, proving itself indispensable yet again.

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I love seeing Shakespeare in other languages. I got the addiction when I saw Yukio Ninagawa’s Japanese (Shogun period – cherry blossom time) Macbeth at the Edinburgh Festival in 1985. Lots of other Ninagawa Shakespeare’s  followed – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus and a Kabuki Twelfth Night – plus a Swedish Hamlet at the NT. When the Globe first opened, we got one visiting company each year, starting with a terrific Zulu Macbeth, a Japanese Comedy of Errors, Cuban Tempest, Brazilian Romeo & Juliet and a kathakali King Lear from India. For some reason they then dried up……so how thrilled was I when The Globe announced 37 productions, each in a different language and a groundling season ticket for £100! Well, I was never going to get to them all (as a season ticket holder, you have to mostly do matinees) but I was going to do as many as I could.

The weather has not been kind in this first week, but I manged four out of seven, starting with the South African Venus & Adonis last weekend. The company that brought The Mysteries and Carmen to Wilton’s and Magic Flute and Christmas Carol to the Young Vic created a musical staging of the epic poem, with seven Venus’ passing their (wedding?) dress from one to the other like a baton in a relay. The singing was glorious, the staging captivating and their enthusiasm infectious. They were clearly thrilled and proud to be there and we shouted and cheered our appreciation.

Next up, Troilus & Cressida in Maori! Well, who’d have thought you could relocate it from ancient Greece to the ancient antipodes so successfully? Inter-Maori war instead of the Trojan wars and thrilling it was too. The kathakali King Lear showed how you could act with facial expressions – well, the Maoris did too, adding tongue and buttock acting for good measure! It was occasionally funny (Achilles lover was a Maori Mr Humphreys!) but mostly action-packed thrills. Another standing ovation (well, I was already standing, so I cheered) for another hugely talented bunch who seemed thrilled to be celebrating with us on Will’s birthday.

The Russian Measure for Measure was a complete contrast but a great production nonetheless. They roughed up the stage with litter to create a decadent Vienna, the Duke and Angelo were played by the same actor, making the point (I think!) that the Duke’s lust for Isabella was no better than Angelo’s. The acting was brilliant and somehow the play made more sense to me in Russian than it ever has in English!

I suspect the Greek Pericles was great if you understood Greek. I knew the play (I’ve seen them all) and again I read a synopsis beforehand and the synopsis provided for each scene on screens in the theatre, but the storytelling style of this production meant you really did miss the dialogue. The lack of any ‘production’ as such put all the focus on the words that you couldn’t understand. A disappointment, I’m afraid.

Sadly, the weather got worse as the week went on. It really was too wet to brave the Swahili Merry Wives on Wednesday afternoon. The expectation of an equally bad Friday put me off the Hindi Twelfth Night, though it looks like the forecasters (80% chance of rain!) got that wrong, and by Sunday, still raining, my exhaustion suggested a day at home to recharge my batteries – so I missed the National Theatre of China’s Richard III. Fingers crossed for the coming week’s Korean Dream, Italian Julius, Cantonese Titus, Palestinian RII, Hip Hop Othello and the world’s newest country – South Sudan – giving us Cymbeline. I wonder how many I’ll make…….

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