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Macbeth @ Manchester Royal Exchange

For about half an hour before the Royal Exchange’s Macbeth started, the atrium of the Royal Exchange was rocked by rumbles and explosions, which became increasingly unsettling as the start time drew near. Christopher Haydon’s production – especially in Elena Peña’s sound design – sought to set up a world rent asunder by war long …

A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ The Bridge Theatre

‘Not for my fairy kingdom’ roared Oliver Chris’s Oberon during his big fight with Gwendoline Christie’s Titania, early in the Bridge Theatre’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The subtle textual change was part of an extensive series of adjustments designed to allow Oberon to remain King of the Forest while putting him on the receiving end of the love potion trick, in a …

Measure for Measure (RSC/Live from Stratford-upon-Avon) @ The Broadway, Nottingham

Gregory Doran’s new Measure for Measure seemed, at times, to be almost defiantly setting itself against ‘relevance’. Eschewing the contemporary settings of several recent productions that have more explicitly responded to the #MeToo moment and the abuses of power in the highest offices (whether political, entertainment, sports), Doran returned to the text’s setting of Vienna, but updated …

Pericles (Willow Globe) @ Oystermouth Castle

The Willow Globe in Powys, Wales, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019, and the coincidence of the British Shakespeare Association holding its first conference in Wales led to a special performance of the company’s Pericles in the grounds of Oystermouth Castle. A more beautiful setting for an outdoor production of Pericles is hard to imagine; the …

Pembroke Arcadia (Fluellen Theatre) @ Taliesin Arts Centre

Romance has had something of a resurgence in recent years on the UK stage, with high-profile productions of Pericles and Cymbeline joining the more regularly staged Winter’s Tale and Tempest, and scattered productions of both Tudor and Jacobean/Caroline romances by Lyly, Greene, Fletcher and others have found welcoming audiences. To adapt one of the period’s …

Henry V, or Harry England @ Shakespeare’s Globe

When I saw Sarah Amankwah in Doctor Faustus at the Sam Wanamaker just before Christmas, I expressed a hope that she’d be a regular at the Globe. The fact that, with very little Shakespeare experience behind her, she has then taken the major through-line role of the Henries trilogy as Hal/Henry V, suggests I wasn’t …

Henry IV Part 2, or Falstaff @ Shakespeare’s Globe

As much as I love 2 Henry IV as a stand-alone play, I often find it suffers a little when presented as the middle part of a trilogy. Whereas 1 Henry IV describes a clear arc for Falstaff, in addition to excellent set pieces for the other characters, and Henry V has a stand-alone narrative …

Henry IV Part 1, or Hotspur @ Shakespeare’s Globe

Following the revisioning of England offered by the Globe’s Richard II in the Sam Wanamaker, a different creative team imagined an England that was still under construction in Hotspur, the first in a trilogy performed by a single eleven-person ensemble. The Globe itself seemed partly dismantled, with partially built pillars, panels missing from the tiring …

Richard II (Shakespeare’s Globe) @ The Sam Wanamaker Theatre

What is England? Seeing Richard II the day after yet another missed deadline for the UK’s departure from the EU, in a climate of mass uncertainty about the nature of sovereignty and the future of the country, unavoidably presented difficult questions about what is at stake, both in the play and now. The uneasy laughter …

The Taming of the Shrew (RSC) @ The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

The setting for the RSC’s 2019 The Taming of the Shrew, the latest in a long line of attempts to find a way of making the play palatable as a comedy for the twenty-first century, ventured into the realms of speculative fiction. Director Justin Audibert’s concept imagined an alternative sixteenth century in which women were …