The Bardathon

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‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Shakespeare’s Globe) @ The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

The 2014 winter season at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse brings together a range of plays that exemplify what Susan Bennett and others refer to as the ‘Jacobean’ – less a specific historical period and more an aesthetic established as oppositional to Shakespeare, foregrounding sex, violence and abandon. This aesthetic usually updates the setting and cultural …

Measure for Measure (Cheek by Jowl) @ The Pushkin Theatre, Moscow

At a hair under two hours long, Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod’s Measure for Measure stripped the play back to its bare bones. Elbow’s subplot was gone, Pompey’s tenure as hangman reduced to a few fragmented lines, Lucio’s relationship with the disguised Duke barely alluded to. In place of the intersecting subplots, Donnellan’s direction asserted …

Ubu Roi (Cheek by Jowl) @ Theatre of Nations, Moscow

Normally I would not be writing about a production of a Jarry play on this blog. However, given that the play itself draws liberally on Macbeth, Richard III and Hamlet; that this production is by a company about whom I am preparing to write a book; and that I’ve travelled to Moscow in order to …

The Witch of Edmonton (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

(note – this review is of a preview performance) The Roaring Girls season, discussed in previous posts on this blog, ended with an entirely untypical coda. Directed by a man (Gregory Doran), given an early modern setting and appearing divorced from the statements about feminism and gender roles within the RSC that had characterised the …

A Christian Turn’d Turk (Read Not Dead) @ The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Back in May, four teams of paired scholars and directors took the stage at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse to pitch for the return of a classic Read Not Dead production. We could have had Middleton’s Your Five Gallants. We could have had Lyly’s Sappho and Phao (though perhaps Lyly needs have been better met recently …

The Woman in the Moon (The Dolphin’s Back) @ The Rose Playhouse, Bankside

Through the combined efforts of scholar Andy Kesson, secondary school teacher Perry Mills and director James Wallace, John Lyly has achieved a remarkable renaissance in recent years. The revival in Lyly’s fortunes is due almost entirely to the rediscovery of his works, not for their complexity of allusion and attachment to court politics, but for …

Hamlet @ The Royal Exchange, Manchester

Despite the apparent novelty, Hamlet is perhaps the Shakespearean tragic hero most often played by a woman. As Tony Howard’s excellent book sets out, women have performed the role for more than two centuries, and indeed the finest of all Hamlet films features the superlative Asta Nielsen in the role. Nonetheless, Maxine Peake’s return to …

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC/Live from Stratford) @ The Broadway, Nottingham

Much was made during last night’s live broadcast of the RSC’s Two Gentlemen of Verona of the fact that it has been in the region of forty-five years since the play last made it onto the main stage at Stratford. One of the great things about the current trundle through the canon is that it …

In the Footsteps of Hamlet @ Kronborg Slot, Helsingor, Denmark

Heaven forfend that I should go on holiday without having some light Shakespeare connection. However, even a normal person visiting Denmark would be the poorer for skipping Kronborg Slot in Helsingor – the Elsinore of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s a stunning, beautifully situated castle, its cannons facing Sweden across the narrowest part of the straits dividing …

The White Devil (Royal Shakespeare Company) @ The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon

Webster epitomises what critics such as Susan Bennett, Pascale Aebischer and Kathryn Prince have termed ‘the Jacobean’, in the sense that refers not to the literal historical period but the subset of early modern drama which usually commands an aesthetic prioritising sex, violence, spectacle and excess. Maria Aberg, who in her previous shows at the …