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Hamlet (RSC) @ The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Seeing the same ensemble of actors take on Hamlet two days after Cymbeline, I was struck by the demands placed on a company performing these two long plays together – the mercifully shorter Hamlet still ran to an energetic three hours and fifteen minutes. And this is one of the consistently strongest ensembles I remember …

Cymbeline (RSC) @ The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

A couple of months ago, before the UK jumped the proverbial shark in the EU referendum, a line from Cymbeline was doing the rounds on social media as Brexiteers leapt on Shakespeare’s comment that Britain is A world by itself; and we will nothing pay For wearing our own noses. Deploying the time-honoured logic of …

Richard III (Almeida Live) @ Nottingham Broadway

I’d been warned to expect it, but even so, the scene of Ralph Fiennes’s Richard III raping Aislin McGuckin’s Queen Elizabeth towards the end of Rupert Goold’s new production came out of nowhere. Falling late in a mostly intelligent, finely characterised take on the play, Fiennes and McGuckin pulled out all the stops for their …

The Wars of the Roses (RSC/Illuminations) on DVD

The Wars of the Roses is one of those iconic productions – like Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – that I never expected to get a chance to watch in full. Peter Hall and John Barton’s three-part condensation of the first tetralogy of history plays was one of the resounding triumphs of the young …

The Alchemist (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

The RSC’s contribution to the 400th anniversary of Ben Jonson’s 1616 Folio is a Swan production of The Alchemist, occupying the slot that Volpone took last summer. The RSC invested a large, game cast, one of the biggest bands I’ve seen in the Swan for some time, and a production budget that stretched to a …

Doctor Faustus (The Jamie Lloyd Company) @ The Duke of York’s Theatre

Jamie Lloyd’s West End production of Doctor Faustus, promoted with a cult celebrity star and promises of a deliberately subversive approach to rewriting and updating the play is a Marmite production. No doubt many will hate the mash-up of A-text and new writing that emerge from a joint writing credit (‘By Christopher Marlowe and Colin …

Doctor Faustus (Passion in Practice) @ The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

I was privileged this week to spend several days in rehearsals with Passion in Practice on their new staged reading of Doctor Faustus. Practice and Passion is a long-term rolling ensemble project devoted to the exploration of original pronunciation and, as I’m currently editing the play for a new anthology, the company kindly offered me …

The Taming of the Shrew @ Shakespeare’s Globe

NB – this review is of a production still in preview. In fact, not only was the Globe’s new production of The Taming of the Shrew still in preview, but the understudies weren’t yet fully rehearsed, as became apparent as the production’s interval stretched out to half an hour with still no sign of the …

Doctor Faustus (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

Watching Maria Aberg’s production of Doctor Faustus in the Swan, I found it hard not to think of A-level drama projects. This isn’t just because I’m speaking at a sixth-form study day at the RSC next month tying in with this production, but because of the deliberately DIY aesthetic of the production, with its gaudy …

The Hollow Crown: Henry VI Part 1 @ The BBC

Given the relative monarchism and conservatism that often marks the BBC’s Shakespeare adaptations, it’s quite something to hear the new Hollow Crown beginning with Judi Dench in voiceover intoning choice excerpts of Ulysses’ famous ‘degree’ speech from Troilus and Cressida. With a slight pause before them, the words “Take but degree away, and mark what …