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Timon of Athens (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

It’s impossible to get away from Simon Godwin at the moment. His RSC Hamlet has only just finished touring; his Antony and Cleopatra at the National has been winning awards, and he’s just about to take up the artistic directorship of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC, as well as directing a production in …

Tamburlaine (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

Oh, how I’ve missed Michael Boyd. While there’s much I admire about Gregory Doran’s work, the RSC’s output has been at best variable for the last few years, often seeming to be in competition with the thrust stage and falling too often into dully conservative furrows. Boyd’s tenure as Artistic Director was far from perfect, …

The Duchess of Malfi (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

I do hate Stratford-upon-Avon. Not only is it a six-hour round train journey from the East Midlands, but a single trespassing incident resulted in two cancellations and, most selfishly, me missing the first half hour of Maria Aberg’s spectacular (and spectacularly bloody) Duchess of Malfi. I am reliably informed by authorities (read: Twitter) that the …

The Two Noble Kinsmen (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre

Just over a decade since I saw the RSC’s Canterbury Tales company offer a fascinating script-in-hand staging of The Two Noble Kinsmen, it was a pleasure to return to the Swan at last for a full-scale professional production, especially in the hands of Blanche McIntyre, fresh from a superb Noises Off at Nottingham Playhouse. While …

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 (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 Jew of Malta (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Seeing The Jew of Malta immediately after seeing Volpone, with both performed by the same ensemble, brings out some surprising similarities between two very different plays. Both feature states with a severe – and arguably corrupt – rule of law; both feature a rich role-player as the morally deficient protagonist who deploys alternative personas as …

Volpone (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

If Trevor Nunn’s superlative production of Volpone established just one thing, it is that Jonson’s finest play (cue debate) demands a tour de force performance from its lead. In Henry Goodman, Nunn found the perfect shapeshifter. Goodman, a stage stalwart without the celebrity baggage that fixes the persona of some other leading actors, had the …

Love’s Sacrifice (RSC) @ The Swan Theatre, Stratford

It is a little dispiriting to find the first of this summer’s Swan plays is another Caroline revenge tragedy in which women are dragged around by their hair and thrown to the ground. This directorial shorthand for women-being-treated-badly is becoming worryingly de rigueur, and its shock-value diminishes with constant repetition and normalisation, especially at the …

The Shoemaker’s Holiday (Royal Shakespeare Company) @ The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon

The RSC’s Winter season, coming at the end of a year commemorating the centenary of the start of World War I, has been unified by its engagement with war. From new plays on Oppenheimer and the Christmas 1914 truce to the anchoring of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won on either side of WW1, …